A good hotpot needs two things primarily - fresh, good quality raw ingredients and a good broth.
Black Knight Warrior, a hotpot restaurant from Taipei that had its official opening at Marina Bay Sands last week, has both.
Gone are the days when you can get away with offering an anaemic chicken stock and defrosted prawns pre-soaked in brine. With Singaporean diners more willing to pay for good quality food, hotpot restaurants that want to be taken seriously need to do more.
And Black Knight Warriors does that, with a choice of six broths. At $38 for most of the broths, they do not come cheap, but these are ready-to-drink soups that are filled with edible ingredients.
The Spicy Hot Pot ($38), for example, comes with pieces of frozen tofu and beef tendon, while the Beauty Pot ($38) has chunks of pig trotter and slices of tripe.
You can also order a combination pot of two different stocks for $48. They all come in beautiful cloisonne pots in bright colours, decorated with floral motifs.
The spicy stock can do with a stronger dose of aromatic spices, though I still would not recommend drinking it, especially if you have a sensitive throat. But the other stocks I try - such as the Drunken Hot Pot ($48, with black chicken and Chinese herbs) and a Sour Cabbage Hot Pot ($28, with frozen tofu) - are so flavourful you can drink them from the start.
BLACK KNIGHT WARRIOR
B1-01B The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Galleria Level , 10 Bayfront Avenue, tel: 6688-7138
Open: 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30 to 10pm daily
Price: Budget from $70 a person
Actually, other than the spicy and the sour cabbage stocks, the food does not taste very different whichever stock you cook it in. So pick one that you enjoy sipping on through the meal.
What makes Black Knight Warrior stand out, too, is the freshness of its meat and seafood. The seafood, especially, is mostly live and priced rather decently.
Mud crabs weighing 800 to 900g, for example, are $58 each. An average-sized Maine lobster of 400 to 600g also costs $58.
Both are excellent for hotpots. As long as you do not overcook them, you will be rewarded with really sweet meat. Leave the crab shell and lobster head to simmer in the broth for flavour.
The live tiger prawns ($16 for 100g) are a must. They are succulent and delicious, well worth the effort of shelling them. And bamboo clams ($15 each) that are lightly poached turn out springy and sweet.
Meat lovers will not be disappointed either. There are different grades of beef to choose from, from a $32 Black Angus Beef from Australia to a $128 Japan A4 wagyu from Japan. In between are snow flakes beef from Australia ($38), US Prime short rib ($48), US Prime wagyu ($58) and US A1 wagyu ($78). Pick one that fits your budget, keeping in mind that the more expensive cuts have better marbling and flavour. The snow flakes beef, not as marbled as wagyu, is not to be scoffed at, however.
The pork quality is very good too, whether you pick the pork neck ($22) or black pork ($18). The black pork tastes especially good, with strips of fat moistening the meat.
Try the fried meat balls ($15) too. They taste good eaten straight off the plate but get even better dunked in broth. They soak up the flavours of the stock, yet do not turn soggy.
The restaurant also offers a small selection of cooked rice and noodle dishes, targeted more at the lunch crowd though these are also available for dinner.
The Taiwan beef noodle ($18) I try is good, comparable to what I find in Taipei's noodle shops. The wheat noodles are not too doughy and the broth is spiced enough to give a kick without burning the palate. The chunks of beef are well-braised and are tender and flavourful.
I would go back to the restaurant just to eat it again.
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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.