Recently I finally had the chance to try the Taiwanese style hot pot that’s all the rage right now. I feel like with the recent craze in hot pot, frozen yogurt and shave ice, a new generation of Asian business owners and consumers are really gaining momentum in the food industry. But let me focus my attention back to the restaurant that deserves our full attention.
Sweet Home Cafe, I love you.
This was my pick for my birthday girls’ night because I had heard of it so many times, and have witnessed the long lines outside at all hours of the night. What, I wondered, was all the fuss about? It turns out that all the fuss is about an incredibly satisfying, fun dining experience that packs so much value for your buck. No wonder it attracts crowds of young people and other cash-strapped customers like me.
If you haven’t yet been here, the system is quite simple: you select the broth(s) of your choice ranging in price from $5.95 to $12.95. If all of you agree on a broth, 3-4 people can easily share one pot of broth. If not, they have sectioned pots for you to enjoy 2 different broths. Then, go to town picking out the ingredients to put inside: thin shabu-shabu style meats, seafood, veggies, tofu, mushrooms, and a gazillion different kinds of fishcakes. The meats are prepared in the kitchen, but everything else is self-serve from their huge refrigerators. The dishes are color-coded by price: $2.75 for green and white plates, $3.75 for red and yellow plates, and $4-something for blue plates I think. (Note: there is a 90 minute time limit which should be enough time especially since they take your order while you’re waiting and swiftly bring everything out to you).
6 Fabulous things that make Sweet Home Cafe so fabulous:
- Broths are all natural, no MSG
- Free rice
- Free refills on the broth
- Free selection of 17 different sauces and condiments including chopped chinese parsley, fried garlic, sesame sauce, miso sauce, spicy sauce, etc. With this complete arsenal of dipping flavors, I could just cook the ingredients in plain water and it would still be good.
- Free Taiwanese shave ice dessert
- They pack up the leftover soup for you to take home, which you can enjoy with noodles for a whole other meal
Here we tried the house special broth and healthy herb broth. The house special broth is a clear beef based broth with chinese parsley, star anise and bay leaf, and had a similar flavor to pho broth. The milky broth was the healthy herb broth with a sweet nutty flavor and had a ton of what looked like ancient Chinese medicinal herbs and dried fruits and nuts inside. The broths are mild and not very salty, which is perfect because there’s the dipping sauces and the ingredients add their own flavor.
Here’s our pot after everything’s been added. At the very end, Japanese style would be to add rice to make porridge or noodles (and they do have noodles) to enjoy all that flavor deposited by all those ingredients, but we were just too full. I enjoyed the soup the next day with some noodles and the amount of umami in the soup was just unbelievable.
After we ate to our hearts’ content, they brought out a huge bowl of Taiwanese style shave ice with all kinds of yummy toppings for us to share.
This entire meal for 4 was only $54.00 before tax and tip! The service here is extremely attentive and warm, and with people sharing tables when it gets busy, it really feels like you’re in their home’s bustling kitchen. It’s the combination of value, service, and the sheer fun of creating your perfect hot pot that makes this place so attractive. I am hopelessly in love and can’t wait to return with my hubby. The long wait? It suddenly doesn’t matter anymore – love is blind.
Sweet Home Cafe
(inside Old Stadium Mall, by Kozo Sushi)
2334 S. King St.
Honolulu, HI 96826