• Jenni Lien

Quan Alley | Taiwan's prettiest hot pot restaurant is now open in Harbour City

It’s an unusually warm November, but the temperature is starting to cool especially in the evenings. This means it’s a great time for hot pot! As a Taiwanese, I’ve been eating (and enjoying) hotpot my whole life but don’t usually eat it outside of Taiwan. I love the casual, hearty buffet-style hotpot with individual pots that is so common in Taiwan. As my sister pointed out, at most casual Taiwanese joints, guests have an unlimited supply of their favourite ingredients and there’s always unlimited Yakult and ice cream too. So I tend to have sticker shock at Hong Kong’s fancy hot pot prices, but was still keen to try the new Quan Alley in Harbour City. It may be fancy hot pot but the flavours sounded very Taiwanese.



Quan Alley is a Taiwanese hot pot chain based out of Shilin, which coincidentally is where I spend most of my time in Taipei (aka my grandma’s house). Looking at photos online, the Harbour City location, it’s first international location, seems to be decorated very similarly to their locations in Taiwan. It’s a modern take on Chinoiserie with beautiful painted floral murals over the walls, red lanterns dangling from the ceiling, and artfully carved wooden panels. Perhaps the best décor feature is also the most natural: the navy blue, light accented view of the Harbour. Definitely a good idea to book a table by the window.



But back to the food. For our soup base, we opted for the Oriental Beauty and Crimson Pit ($328 for this two soup “yin yan” option). The Oriental Beauty is a pork-based broth with a rich, milky white colour. It was seriously delicious, complex and hearty without being too heavy. (Later, we learned that it’s made with 40 catties of pork bones, 10 catties of pork spines, and 10 catties of pork knuckles. Woo.) Food cooked in this pot mostly just tasted boiled, so we preferred cooking our food in the Crimson Pit. But for actual soup drinking, we loved the Oriental Beauty and had almost three refills. It’s definitely not something I could ever recreate at home…with my current cooking skills anyway!



The Crimson Pit is Quan Alley’s spiciest option but I, with my medium spice tolerance, thought it was quite manageable. We were also served a citrus tea which helped calm our tongues. In the middle of the pot was a spice filter. While there were some larger chilis in the Crimson Pit soup, the smaller spices were contained in a middle, perforated section so we got all the flavour of the spices without the annoyance of having to pick them out. Very neat.


If this is the first time you’re hearing about Quan Alley, then you should know that they are known for their unique and very photogenic hot pot selections. But, wait, that description isn’t doing them justice.



There are roses made out of pork neck ($298).



And ice pops made out of seafood and pork ($88 for 3, $128 for 5), wrapped in crystal dough.



And donuts ($88 for 3, $128 for 5) made with shrimp, squid, pumpkin, sweet pea, and various nuts and dried fruit.



And handmade almond daisies ($108 for 3, $168 for 5) with a squid base.



And last but not least, a veggie bouquet ($238).


Of the selections we tried, I’d recommend the donuts and the daisies. Both held up well, even after being boiled in the soup, and had unique flavours and textures, where as I found the ice pops bland. I did like the pork roses. Interestingly, guests are asked to pour egg white all over the roses before cooking so the meat would be more tender. I was skeptical but this really did seem to work. My only concern is the price. I don’t know if I’d want to pay premium just to have my pork shaped like roses before cooking, where they then disperse into regular pork slices. The bouquet is stunning and generous in size but I’d recommend only ordering it if you’re planning on eating mostly veggies, or a group of four or more, because it’s quite a generous portion and priced accordingly.


Verdict

Quan Alley is a great addition to both the hotpot and Taiwanese food offerings in town. The ingredients and soups are fresh and of high quality, the location is great, and the prices are on par with similar fancy hot pot places in town. Overall, I had a great experience. But next time I visit, I might just stick with the broths and regular meat (their regular pork and shrimp dumplings are excellent) and veggie options, and add on a fancy selection or two. However you like to eat hot pot, for a satisfying meal this season (and beyond), check out the newest, prettiest, hotspot option our city has to offer.


Ocean Terminal G OT57, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, 31882840


*By invitation


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