The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Weegie Week, Day 4: Hot Pot at Bamboo Pavilion in Bensonhurst

This post originally took place on September 28. Read more about Weegie Week here, here, and here.

so much tasty stuff on this table, oh yeah
I'm gonna eat you, and you, and you. ...And you.

The first and last time I willingly ate a variation of hot pot in New York City was nearly five years ago at Quickly in Chinatown. The meal left me wondering why I had given money to a restaurant so I could cook my own food. ...And have someone else clean up the dishes, I guess. But still. As someone who wasn't (well, still isn't) adept at cooking, nor skilled at mixing dipping sauces from the ingredients the restaurant laid out for us, it seemed like a waste of a good meal out—the kind where the dishes require no further cooking by my ill equipped hands. And thus followed five years devoid of hot pot.

(I'll add that I grew up eating hot pot at home. It was an occasional, special "dad" dinner for those times when he wasn't out working late and we could all do that "sit around the dinner table and squeeze in some quality family time" thing. It was plenty fun as a kid—"Ooh I'm dipping stuff in this vat of boiling water! Look at this slice of beef go from red to grayish! I'm having the time of my life!" How nice it was to be a child. Denaturing beef proteins is but a simple joy.)

But after eating hot pot with Morten, Behnaz, Kåre, and Diana at Sichuan restaurant Bamboo Pavilion in Bensonhurst, I had the opposite reaction: "OH MY GOD, WHY DON'T I EAT THIS MORE OFTEN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? ...Do you see this bounty of pork?" The meal was better than my first experience in many ways: 1) There was a flat price for unlimited foodstuffs (aside from a few special items), allowing us to order with semi-abandon; 2) We could order spicy and non-spicy broth (it being a Sichuan restaurant and all); 3) The sauces were already made by someone possessing knowledge in sauce-craft; and 4) I was spending my time with Diana and the weegies.

oohh yeah that's pork

I don't remember all the ingredients we ordered and I foolishly failed to grab a menu, but my favorite was the thinly sliced pork strips. We got lots of that. Oh yes. There was also cabbage, fried tofu, non-fried tofu, seaweed knots, thinly sliced beef, mung bean sprouts, watercress, and lobster-fish balls (for an extra fee).

two soups
Two soups.

Shove everything in the bubbling pot for a good time. Diana doesn't handle super spicy broth very well, so the blood red, hot oil-laden side was for the rest of us. And it was...quite hot. I loved it—the sweating, the tingling infused in every mouth crevice, the occasional gagging—but unless you're a big fan of chili peppers and peppercorns, steer clear of that. I was dumb and occasionally used my strainer to scoop stuff out of the spicy side and the non-spicy side, thus marring the non-spicy side with hot oil bits. ...Oops. Don't be that guy.

three sauces!

The burning sensation was offset by three thick sauces: mega-garlic, sesame, and something soy sauce-based. Yeah, those description suck, but they give you a general ideal. My faves were the garlic and sesame. Slathered. On. Everything.

bubbling nom nom
Diana, takin' charge.

We put Diana in charge since she had a better idea of what to do than the rest of us. ...Not that it's hard to figure out. "Boiling soup? Frozen meat? COMBINE?" I trust her more than I trust myself.


We did a good job of polishing off our mound of ingredients and making a dent in the soup vat. Our enthusiastic eating also resulted in a soup-splatted table. If your table isn't messy, you're doing it wrong.

I left with intense stomach-bloat. Happy stomach-bloat.

...Actually, I think my stomach was in a not-so-good state of frothy and burny, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Bamboo Pavilion
Bamboo Pavilion.

Is it worth going out of your way to eat at Bamboo Pavilion? I wouldn't say it's...not worth your time. Surely you should try it if you live nearby. I'd like to go back someday to try the non-hot pot dishes, and I probably will since Diana lives nearby.

Feeding the weegies mooncakes! NOM NOM NOM
Nom nom?

And since she lives nearby (that was the reason we chose to eat at Bamboo Pavilion), we went to her house for tea and desserts, mooncakes being the holiday-appropriate dessert. My distended belly couldn't handle much more than one bite—one bite being roughly 600 calories and all. To settle my stomach I tried drinking some tea whose constitution I can't recall, but as it tasted like it was steeped with bark and dirt, it may have been a Chinese medicinal thing.

with hat

For the grand finale, Diana took our portraits in her humble basement studio. The photo above? Oh, it turned into this:

Dramatic Morten. Photograph by Diana.

Yeah. Pretty fantastic. She used a $30 desk lamp to light the shots taken with a 5D Mark II. If you haven't seen her photos before, do that now. Her photography is the opposite of mine: thoughtful, directed, artfully arranged. In the meantime, I'm still learning how to use my camera. You can see more of the portraits from that night in her Flickr. She took a bagillion; I'll have to poke her to unearth the ones that didn't make it online. :)

Group shot! Photograph by Diana.

Of course, we needed a group shot too—Behnaz, Diana, and me in the back, with (sleepy looking) Morten and Kåre in front, documenting perhaps the only time that Norwegian tourists have traveled to Bensonhurst. I wish the night could've lasted longer, but it was a Tuesday night, so...damn our pesky jobs, making us wake up early and all. (Actually, I don't have to wake up until 9 a.m. to get to the Serious Eats office, so it's not bad at all. My problem is that I have a tendency to go to bed at 3 a.m., which is totally my fault. Surfing the Internet magically turns wasted minutes into wasted hours.)

I think this is the best hot pot-venture I may ever have—the combination of good food and friends is unbeatable—but I'm looking forward to trying all the hot pot options in the city. Eventually. Before I die. (My next stop is only a week away! Going to a hot pot dinner in Flushing organized by Tom.)


Bamboo Pavilion
6920 18th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11204 (map)


Yin / October 30, 2010 11:34 PM

I've passed by that place millions of times wondering if it's ever good. Thanks for this review! :)

Mahar / October 31, 2010 2:34 PM

I love hot pot. But the danger of eating that way is exiting the restaurant smelling like hot pot.

That said, nothing is quite as comforting as hot pot on cold rainy nights.

roboppy / October 31, 2010 8:14 PM

Yin: Sweet; let me know what you think of it! I love Sichuan fooood.

Javier: This winter = HOT POT TIME!

Mahar: Smelling like hot pot isn't so bad when everyone you're hanging out with also smells like hot pot. :)

Rich / November 1, 2010 9:42 PM


I doubt if it's been "the only time that Norwegian tourists have traveled to Bensonhurst", since there used to be a large Norwegian-American community in Bay Ridge, not too far from where you were eating hot pot. "Leif Ericson Park and Square" borders on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Speaking of Christopher Columbus..., it's too bad you were so full after your meal, because I noticed, via Google Map streetview, that there is a Sicilian bakery, Villabate, diagonally across the intersection from Bamboo Pavilion. Maybe next time.

Happy eating!

roboppy / November 1, 2010 10:17 PM

Rich: Ahh, good point... I should be more specific: "One of the few times Norwegian tourists have visited Bensonhurst to eat hot pot"? ;) I guess Bay Ridge isn't that far, although it's just about beyond what I'd prefer to walk. I went to Bay Ridge about 5 years ago just to visit Nordic Delicacies and other stores with Scandinavian stuff. Haven't been back since then... ;_;

Villabate was closed after we ate dinner (I've been there a few times before when I've visited Diana) but even if it was I don't know if I could've fit in a cookie!

Julie / November 2, 2010 3:06 PM

Dude, if I took a photo of something lit by a $30 lamp, it would come out looking like something lit by a $1 lamp. Her portraits that night look awesome! I love yours!

Your initial assessment of hot pot (paying to cook your own food) sounds like my assessment of fondue restaurants, and not even nearly as flavorful or interesting. It is all right if you enjoy the company, though.

roboppy / November 4, 2010 11:41 AM

Julie: Ahh hot pot beats fondue by a bagillion! Granted I've only tried fondue..once?..twice..I dunno. Yeah, not as interesting, even though I love me some cheese goo.

jesika / November 7, 2010 12:21 AM

i read this a few days ago... and just now i was sitting at my computer, eating a whatchamacallit and watching the office on hulu when i eerily whispered to myself "weeeeeeegiiiiiiieeeeees." i just thought you should know.

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