Rating: ★★★★☆

Address: Shop A, G/F, Gold Union Commercial Building, 70-72 Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan

Telephone: 2857 7987

INA Hotpot is a new Cantonese hotpot restaurant operated by the Inagiku restaurant group, which is renowned for their high-end Japanese restaurant Inagiku.  There are two Inagiku outlets, located in the Four Seasons Hotel and Royal Garden Hong Kong, which are joint operations with the hotels, but this hotpot restaurant is solely operated by the restaurant group itself.

As I am a big fan of the Inagiku restaurant at Royal Garden (I didn’t use to eat at restaurants on Kowloon side much, but since last year I have started discovering many wonderful restaurants on the “dark side”), I am very excited about trying out INA Hotpot with my friends.

The restaurant has a bright, modern setting, with a tall ceiling, dark wood furniture and a sushi counter at the back of the restaurant.  The manager quickly comes to introduce himself to us as soon as we are seated. We find the service at the restaurant overall attentive and helpful, but the manager is quite pushy and keeps asking us to order the sashimi (he insists that the Inagiku group serves wonderful sashimi), even though we tell him repeatedly that all we want some Chinese hotpot.

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It is usual for hotpot restaurants to let you concoct your own dipping sauce, but this is the first time I see such a neat, beautifully arranged tray of sauces and condiments which is brought to our table.

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(1) The menu has a great selection of offerings, and we start off with a few cooked snacks while we wait for one of our friends who is running late. The wood-ear fungus with vinegar ($58) is ordered, and it does not disappoint. The black fungus is thin and delectably crunchy, and the vinegar sauce is well adjusted without being too sour.

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(2) The pan fried shrimp cake ($78) is tasty, with a delightful outer crispiness and a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce.

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(3) Many of the soup bases sound very tempting, and we decide on the chicken & coconut broth ($268) in the end, which comes with half a chicken.

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We put the coconut water to boil, then add the chicken into the broth.

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We each drink a bowl of the broth even before we start cooking anything else, and it is absolutely delicious with an alluring, natural sweetness. A punch of salt would have made it even better!

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(4) Our hotpot ingredients start to arrive and the first ones are the miso radish & Kurobuta pork dumplings ($68). The wrapper has a suitable thickness and the fillings are also juicy and flavourful.

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(5) The Sichuan style spicy beef dumpling ($68) are very spicy indeed, but utterly tangy!

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(6) I adore the steamed Kurobuta pork dumplings ($88). These are easily over cooked and may burst open, but it is worth our effort as the sweet pork fillings are mouthwatering! 

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Even though this is a hotpot restaurant where you cook almost everything yourself, there is a chef at the restaurant who walks talking to customers. The chef comes over to our table, offers some suggestions and shares his thoughts, and then tells us that we are not cooking the dumplings quite the right way. We are a bit disappointed that he does not offer to help cook any of the dumplings for us, but the waiters soon come over to assist our table just when we are starting to feel lazy with cooking.

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(7) We order a Beef Platter ($688) to share. The platter is very reasonably prized given how much beef we get. There are Chinese Wagyu flank steak, Chinese Wagyu chuck steak, U.S. strip loin, local sliced beef and diced Angus beef. This is a good way to sample the different types of beef, and we find the Wagyu flank steak, Wagyu chuck steak and strip loin very delicious, but the local sliced beef is a bit stringy and the diced Angus beef is not the most suitable for cooking in a hotpot.

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(8) The fresh shrimp balls ($88) are bouncy and naturally flavourful, and retain their juiciness after being cooked.

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(9) The minced cuttlefish paste ($88) is beautifully decorated and we find the taste pristine.

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(10) We are very impressed by the sliced grass carp ($68), which is almost sashimi-fresh and when cooked for a few seconds, becomes thin, delicate slices of fish that are impossible to resist.

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(11) The fried bean curd skin ($68) are wafer-thin and are moreish when lightly cooked and dipped in sauces.

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(12) Last but not least, the Inaniwa udon ($68) arrives. The udon has an amazingly smooth and bouncy texture, and by now the broth is completely packed with a melange of delicious flavours, making it perfect for us to cook the udon and also drink a bowl of the broth.

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The meal costs less than what we expected, and we each pay around $500 for a large amount of food. We enjoy the scrumptious food and the clean and comfortable decor. Our only complaint is the service, with an aggressive manager and a less than helpful chef. I will be glad to visit this restaurant again though, and if the manager is not too pushy, we will perhaps try out their sashimi too!