The hot pot craze is showing no signs of slowing, with four new venues turning on their induction stoves in highly glam surrounds.
EFC Group (also Gotcha Fresh Tea and Da Long Yi Hot Pot) quietly opened JiYu Thai Hot Pot (208 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne) on December 12 in a modern space with a loose jungle theme in Chinatown.
Founded in Phuket in 1998, JiYu expanded to Chengdu in 2015 where it's now common to wait up to five hours for a seat.
JiYu translates to "get all the fish together" and 80 per cent of the seafood is sourced in Australia. There are eight Thai soup bases with options for vegetarians and pescetarians, but tom yum is the specialty. The express lunch is great value at $16.80: choose your broth and add-ins and the kitchen cooks it for you. Come January, a vegetarian high tea is on the cards, featuring fusion nibbles like salted egg croissants alongside cucumber sandwiches.
Also hailing from Chengdu, Panda Hot Pot (100 Victoria Street, Carlton) opened in the former Dracula's site on the first Friday of December.
There's a 16-metre dragon suspended from the ceiling, mist-shrouded water feature and ornate woodwork and lanterns spread across two levels. The restaurant seats 230 people and puts on free nightly cultural performances. The signature here is the Sichuan spicy soup, simmered for 12 hours with a secret, imported spice blend.
Not to be outgunned, the David's Hot Pot group is dropping multi-million dollar Chef David on December 21 at Level 1, 462 Elizabeth Street. Chrome fixtures and futuristic chandeliers give a nightclub feel to the 200-seat venue, which will offer barbecue as well as Sichuan hot pots fringed with seafood and wagyu, and premium imported whiskies.
Finally, in late January, Nana Thai Style Hot Pot & BBQ moves into the old Da Rin site (169 Bourke Street, Melbourne), having concluded its evening pop-ups at Soi 38. This latter hero, meanwhile, has started dinner service of its own. Nana will seat 63 people and promises both the original menu and authentic Thai street food dishes that can't be found elsewhere in Melbourne.