Steakhouse is a difficult business in China, especially when the majority would not associate proper business entertaining to happen in the steakhouse. So when a steakhouse diversify, it moves to open a really posh hotpot – absolutely logical.
In Jan 2021, 王品 Wangpin Group‘s new brand – Xichuan Ba Niu 西川霸牛 – grandly opened in Shanghai’s Raffles City Changning. This brand is the first Sichuan hotpot brand launched by Wangpin Group in the mainland, after a successful (but dwindling) run of Wangpin steakhouses 王品牛排 across the country.
The decor is slick and modern.
The hotpot was presented in a pomp ceremony. This has become SOP in China where ceremonial 仪式感 is part of the dining experience.
We ordered the perennial favourite “Yuanyang” hotpot, where it consisted two halves – one half was their signature mala soup and the other the mushroom clear soup to neutralise the mala soup, ying and yang are balanced once more.
They are very proud of the their mala soup. They claimed that it was different from the traditional Sichuan version, where butter was used. They used a canola seed oil to extract the flavours from all the spices. It was supposed to be lighter and better, and a portion of dough fritters was given for you to dip into the mala soup to try it.
And instead of the usual induction pot, they used a heating element to maintain the temperature in the stainless steel pot.
As part of the hotpot, they offered unlimited self-serve ice cream with assortment of toppings. And there’s the familiar spice and condiment table that you can make your own sauces.
We started with a few appetisers – deep fried pork and spring rolls. Nothing to shout about, but good snacks to start the drinks going.
There’s a wide variety of choices for the hotpot, including pig brains, my family favourite and something we always have during our Chinese New Year gathering.
This has almost become a standard service where the staff will help you deskill the prawns. It was an easier eat, but the shells actually enhanced the soup, so it was kind of wasted on me.
The first beef we had was the Australian M7 sirloin cut. Good beef, meaty and did not disintegrate when cooked.
The Wagyu beef short ribs is selected from Australian M9 Wagyu. The cattle was grain-fed for more than 450 days. The marble-like texture has a melt-in-the-mouth texture. And it just disintegrated inside the boiling pot.
Compared to the beef, pork belly was significantly subpar. There’s more fats than flesh. Quite disappointed.
This is not exactly a unique dining experience. It was similar to many hotpot restaurants in Shanghai, and for that matter around the country. For Wangpin to compete in this cutthroat field of hotpot, they need to do better than offer good meat and fanciful presentation. The soup based was not the best I have tried. The mala was below that of another chain called Dalongyan, which was famous for their extreme hot soup, and the mushroom soup was definitely below that of Lingjie.
They have to do better than to copy others, just like their steakhouses.
Xichuan Hotpot 西川霸牛
Date Visited : Jul 2021