Hot Pot @ Happy Valley Chinese Kitchen

*Restaurant is now closed*

2 buffets in a day huh? Either I had a death wish or I was training to immigrate south of the border. Well, actually neither. For some odd reason, it just worked out that way. At the very least, the dinner AYCE would be somewhat healthier since it was hot pot. Meeting up with Rich Guy and Toolman in Burnaby close to the New West border, it would seem a bit confusing for some to see us dining on AYCE hot pot (although there are a few nearby). Yah, that's what I thought when I found out that Happy Valley Chinese Kitchen was offering AYCE hot pot. When we first walked into the place, I was pretty skeptical. First of all, we were the only patrons there and that would be the case for the rest of our meal. Second, this was a regular restaurant offering hot pot, which usually means they are not as equipped nor stocked as much as an actual hot pot joint.

Despite my 2 reservations about the place, the owner lady (I assume) was very friendly and made us feel welcomed. Since no one seemed to want spicy broth and the fact I already had Indian AYCE for lunch, we went for just the plain ol' regular broth. On the items checklist, we went for almost everything and it actually too awhile for the plates to arrive. I can only assume that since this is not a hot pot restaurant, the ingredients are not exactly ready to go immediately. When things did start arriving, it came fast and furious. I don't think I ate a bite until 15 minutes later. So many pictures to take! When I finally got down to business, I gave the Shaved Rib-Eye a try first. From appearance alone, the beef looked pretty fresh, albeit it was probably previously frozen so that they could shave it. No biggie though. And just like your typical rib-eye, it wasn't super tender, yet it was tender enough.

We knew for certain that the Shaved Pork was frozen because it came out frozen. Again, no matter, that is pretty standard in hot pot land. When it was cooked, it had a pleasant chewiness to it while not exhibiting any bad "porkiness". However, the same could not be said about the Pork Stomach and Beef Honeycomb Tripe. I found the pork stomach to be rather gamy and tough. The beef tripe was even more tough. They obviously did not tenderize it. When I took it out of the boiling broth and tried to eat it, it was akin to chewing on leather. I actually couldn't break it down in order to swallow it. In the end, I gave up. At the very least, it was not gamy, so I guess they had ran it through water for long enough.

To illustrate my statement about the place not being an actual hot pot restaurant, we can clearly see that the Fish Balls were of the store-bought variety. We find freshly made meat balls in many of the dedicated hot pot joints in the GVRD. It is almost like finding a non-shrimp wonton in a wonton noodle house these days. Rare and frankly inexcusable. At least offer an all-shrimp wonton as an option. I digress. So all I can say about the fish ball was that it was pretty typical. At least it was not frozen, or it was defrosted. The New Zealand Mussels were also pretty typical being the pre-cooked defrosted variety. We also ordered a variety of veggies and mushrooms and they were more or less fresh looking and tasting.

On another plate, we had the Fish Tofu and Squid Tentacles. And once again, the fish tofu was pretty standard stuff. I did like that it was in big chunks though. As for the tentacles, they could've been more tenderized. I found them chewy, even with experimentation with cooking times. With that being said, I could eat them, so they weren't horrible. Moving along to more offal (and I ate all of it since they didn't want to touch it), the Beef Tendon arrived on the same plate as the Beef Meatballs. The tendon was precooked properly where it was soft, yet did not disintegrate in the boiling broth. The meatballs were your typical Vietnamese super pureed and tenderized variety.

We actually had much more items but they were pretty standard and really, there is no reason to talk about them. As you can probably ascertain, the hot pot here is pretty mediocre at best. As mentioned, Happy Valley Kitchen is not a dedicated hot pot restaurant, so expectations have to be reasonable. However, there are other hot pot joints around, in particular Pearl Hot Pot and if you want to stretch the genre, Posh. These are better in my opinion and that is probably why we were the only customers around for the duration of our meal. I guess the next time I wander by Happy Valley, I can give their regular menu a try.

The Good:
- Friendly service
- There's a parking lot

The Bad:
- Hot pot is pretty mediocre in terms of overall ingredients

Happy Valley Chinese Kitchen 快活谷中式快餐店 on Urbanspoon

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