One of mainland China’s largest hot pot chains made its way to New York City for the first time this year — with waits already piling up to as long as two hours on weekend nights and plans to open more outposts in the city.
Liuyishou Hotpot, an international franchise company with more than 1,000 stores, has locations throughout China, as well as in Dubai, Singapore, Australia, France, Thailand, and Japan. The popular chain now has an annual gross revenue of over 4 billion renmimbi (or $576 million U.S. dollars), according to its website. Though it started opening in Canada a couple years ago, this is the just the third outpost in the United States, following one in Princeton, New Jersey and another in San Mateo, California.
Located at 136-76 39th Avenue in Flushing, the new NYC location of Liuyishou Hotpot specializes in very spicy Chongqing-style hot pot. The restaurant is known for a photogenic presentation, where an assortment of meats is laid out on a wooden wheel that fits around the hot pot, and its extensive 32-item buffet-style sauce bar. The buffet, which costs $2.95, includes tripe salad, kelp salad, edamame, leek flower sauce, mushroom paste, and assorted fruits.
Broth-wise, there’s the signature beef oil spicy soup base, which can be ordered on its own, with a vegetable oil substitute, or as one half of a two-flavor broth combo. Standard hot pot options such as pork ribs with Chinese herbs, mixed mushrooms with Chinese herbs, and a sweet and sour tomato soup are available, while other broths venture outside traditional offerings, like boiled fish with pickled Chinese radish, braised duck with pickled radish, and braised chicken with fresh coconut. There’s a three-flavor combo set, as well.
Hot pot ingredient platters range from a $9.95 veggie platter that includes pumpkin, chrysanthemum, and Chinese cabbage to a $29.95 seafood platter with oyster, mussels, shrimp, and sole fillet. The $14.95 beef and lamb combo is the most famed option, according to manager Lucy Wang, including bright red, slices of meat atop a big wooden wheel that makes a frequent appearance on social media. The restaurant also has a “traditional platter” that includes beef tongue, beef tripe, she says. A la carte options are also available.
Though it’s the just the third U.S. location for Liuyishou Hotpot, the company has ambitious expansion plans. Already, it has opened 10 locations in Canada in the last two years. And two more locations are set to open in Boston and Seattle by the end of this year, with potential plans to open more here as well, according to Rita Ran, a senior manager at Liuyishou Int. Management Co. Ltd., which runs North American operations.
It’s one of several hot pot chains making its way to New York in recent years. Popular upscale Sichuan chain Haidilao also has plans to open in Flushing, and companies like Little Sheep have been here for some time. The hot pot market in downtown Flushing is very competitive; other options include Xiang Hot Pot, Mister Hotpot, Master Yin Chongqing Authentic Hot Pot, 99 Favor Taste, and Niu Pot.
Liuyishou Hotpot offers a social media promotion such that anyone who posts photos on WeChat, Facebook, Yelp, or Instagram can get a house special plum juice, a sour and sweet juice made of fresh plum and a Chinese-style cinnamon. And on special holidays, they’ll bring back their Wheel of Fortune where guests can spin the wheel to win various menu items.
The restaurant name, meaning “one-armed Liu,” is named after the founder who had lost his hand in a car accident and plays off off the word, “yishou,” meaning thumbs up, which is reflected in the company’s logo.
The spacious 19-table restaurant is good for large groups up to six people for comfortable sharing. Located at 136-76 39th Avenue, it’s open 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week.
Caroline Shin is a food and culture journalist and founder of the Cooking with Granny video and event series, where diverse immigrant grandmothers cook and tell stories.