Wait… boozy hotpot?
Yes, you heard me right, but this isn’t your ordinary hotpot with a lacklustre alcohol pairing. Instead, it’s uniquely selected alcohol that’s deliberately spiked in the pot in front of you!
Situated in the neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po, Bino N’ Booze is a new hotpot concept offering a traditional Hong Kong hotpot experience with a modern, boozy twist. The four signature alcohol-infused soup bases include red-wine oxtail and tomato soup, BnB seafood soup, hua diao Chinese herbal soup (with an option of chicken or beef shank) and pig tripe and chicken in beer soup.
The restaurant’s funky, modern design features remnants of the past such as Hong Kong’s traditional neon lights and Chinese-style arches. The dining room is rather spacious – a luxury for hotpot restaurants, which can often get quite stuffy.
Our menu was curated for tasting purposes. The prices shown below reflect the prices of the original menu items, which offer a larger portion of food than what we were served.
Signature red-wine oxtail and tomato soup (HK$288): the soup base is a tomato-based broth with a standard soffritto mix of celery, carrot and onion. A worthy point of mention is the use of fresh oxtail, which gives the soup a slight gaminess that we found delectable. I was told that the broth had been simmered for five or six hours, so I had hoped to find some meat-off-the-bone action, but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite there yet. However, a highlight was the tableside spiking of Shiraz into the pot, which I originally thought was a marketing gimmick – little did I know that it serves a functional purpose too. Using “fresh” wine gives the soup base another dimension of acidity, rather than the wine being fully cooked out for hours, which can sometimes lead to a tannic, bitter aftertaste.
Golden shrimp toast (HK$88): light and airy fried toast with shrimp paste on top. The buttery exterior gives the toast a brioche-like texture. A well-executed pre-hotpot snack.
Iced marinated abalone (HK$58 each): a Japanese-influenced preparation of abalone with soy sauce, mirin, sake and salt. Though generally a well-marinated piece of seafood displaying a pleasing amount of firmness, the centre of the abalone was slightly undercooked for my liking.
Deep-fried cuttlefish with salt and pepper (HK$88): standard deep-fried cuttlefish with a crisp batter and salt-and-pepper seasoning – nothing mind-blowing.
Steer beef, chuck flap cut (HK$328 for regular portion; HK$438 for large portion): steer beef is produced by male cattle that are castrated before they reach maturity, which is typically around 12–15 months of age. By definition, this meat should be more flavourful and tender. Having tried many cuts of steer beef in my lifetime, this steer chuck flap was slightly on the underwhelming side. The meat was tender and relatively juicy, but the imperative beefy, umami flavour was lacking. This finding has been notified to the restaurant, and hopefully an improvement may be seen in due course.
Signature hua diao drunken chicken dumplings (HK$58/3; HK$98/6): this is a rendition of the Shanghainese favourite, encapsulated in a xiao-long-bao-like wrapping. There’s just the right amount of hua diao to harmoniously complement the delicate chicken mince. The story doesn’t end there – a lengthy, aromatic finish of the Chinese wine lingered on my palate, easily making these dumplings a favourite of the meal.
Abalone and black truffle dumplings (HK$78/3; HK$138/6): this dumpling is an interesting interplay of texture, flavour and culture. Inside is a mixture of pork mince and abalone, offering a pleasing textural contrast. The Italian truffle paste, increasingly popular in fusion Chinese cookery, is a flavourful East-meets West addition. Another solid, rewarding effort by the eatery.
Berkshire pork and chive dumplings (HK$48/3; HK$78/6): these standard-looking dumplings are made from chives sourced specially from Chiu Chow that have an extra-garlicky pungency, electrifying in both aroma and flavour. A small but mighty presence – a true delight for chive lovers like myself.
Fresh prawn wontons (HK$58/3; HK$98/6): unfortunately, these were a miss for us, especially in contrast to the strong competition above. The filling and dumpling skin were wrapped too tightly, with the final product being a firm dough ball encasing pork and shrimp that lacked the necessary airy texture and notable goldfish-esque wonton tail.
Handmade shrimp balls (HK$58/4; HK$98/8) and handmade cuttlefish balls (HK$58/4; HK$98/8): both were slightly disappointing. The texture was acceptable, with fine bits of the respective proteins, but their consistency was too firm and their flavour lacking any briny seafood umami.
Supreme fish maw (HK$188): this fish maw is pre-soaked and pre-cooked to achieve its desired gelatinous texture. We got a fair dose of oceanic goodness from this piece.
Fresh vegetable platter (HK$88) and Japanese Inaniwa udon (HK$48): your usual hotpot suspects! We recommend allowing the tomato-wine-oxtail concoction to slightly reduce before adding in the udon, making the consistency of the broth thick enough to hang onto the noodles.
We were served a trio of desserts – white truffle ice cream (HK$38), brown sugar ice jelly (HK$38) and Oreo ice cream (HK$38). The jelly is a pleasant cooling medium, sweetened by brown sugar syrup and texturised with dried fruits on top. Both ice creams are homemade, with a special shout-out going to the white truffle variety; its milky creaminess is contrasted with a paradoxical savoury explosion of truffle flavour – I couldn’t help but go for seconds of this strangely addictive combination.
This new kid on the block puts up a good fight against the traditional HK-style hotpot eateries around town, especially in the older neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po. Bino N’ Booze’s location might not be the most convenient (it’s a 10-minute walk from the MTR station), but I was informed that parking is available (be sure to phone the restaurant ahead of time). I was also told that there will be special soup bases from time to time, and if one desires an off-menu soup base (e.g., winter melon), it can be made to order upon request.
Bino N’ Booze has its edge, but it also has some room for improvement (we’ve already mentioned our concerns to the restaurant). I’d say give it a try if you’re bored with your average-Joe hotpot, particularly if you want to give your taste buds a boozy spike!
Where: Shop A, G/F & 1/F, Hyde Park, 205 Hai Tan Steet, Sham Shui Po
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.