Mom Special Cafeteria is an authentic Chinese hotpot restaurant in the China Cluster of International City (where else). The fact that it’s the first self-service enterprise of its kind which I have been to makes it unique but not necessarily better. One side of the restaurant houses a row of display refrigerators like in the frozen section of a supermarket, each stocking a different staple, i.e. one has seafood, the other mushrooms, the next greens, and so on and so forth.
You’re brought a pot of either plain or spicy broth and then encouraged to go and collect whatever you fancy. Of course, being Dubai there is someone on hand to do everything for you.
Although I did not like the broth itself (not a biggie, as you’re not supposed to drink the broth in any case), the quality of the condiments weren’t at all bad considering the AED59 price tag. This was particularly the case in the seafood section where an abundance of seemingly fresh white fish chunks, squid, octopus and shrimps were available.
Serve yourself as much as you want and, if you want your shell-on shrimps cleaned or your squid chopped, simply hand your plate over to one of the staff who vanishes into the kitchen only to come out a couple of seconds later with the job done. There’s a separate deep freeze chest where cellophane wrapped plastic containers (not dissimilar to the ones in the sliced cheese and cold cuts section in the supermarket) of wafer-thin beef, lamb and chicken slices are kept. Help yourself to as many as you want. And lastly, there’s the sauce mixing section which, while not as elaborate as some of the other hotpot specialists, covers all the key elements such as sesame, chilli, peanut, etc.
We were looked after by a friendly Bengali lad named Mahi who had us in stitches every time he switched into Chinese when addressing the other guests. He and another compatriot did a splendid job of running the show. At the end of the day, I felt Mom’s was good but not nearly on the same level as heavyweights Innermongolia Xiao Wei Yang or the newly crowned kings of International City hotpot, Nine Squares. At AED59 per person, Mom’s does offer very good value for money but not enough.
Waste NOT. Want NOT.