Adding to the diversity Clarke Quay has to offer is Da Miao Hot Pot, a restaurant which first began in Chengdu, China. During my university days, I fell in love with this Sichuan style Mala hotpot that was numbingly good (also it helped me numb the stressors of academic rigours).
Despite my lackluster appreciation for the Chinese culture, I found the eclectic East-meets-West décor style oddly refreshing. At the entrance, two red lanterns hung on racks that are stacked with straw bowls, baskets as well as glass containers filled with Chinese herbs and spices. Beyond the entrance, you’ll find a multi coloured stage built in the heart of Damiao’s premises. Above the stage you’ll spot brass pots and pans hung above the ceiling. If I hadn’t paid attention to the tables that are equipped with the in-built conduction cooker, I could have almost mistaken Damiao as a mini Chinese museum.
Unlike a number of restaurants in Clarke Quay, Damiao offers (thankfully) an all-indoor hotpot experience. You could still have the option of either dining window side or dine nearer to the stage where short performances are put on to entertain diners in the evening. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of Damiao’s traditional performance by their “stage actors” while cooking your ingredients in their delicious soup bases.
Take your seats and you’ll first be greeted with the conduction cooker with the words “Da Miao” embossed in red on top of it. The service staff rapidly placed a spread of condiments across our tables, such as chopped peanuts, garlic, chilli padi, coriander and spring onions. We were also given a little red can filled with sesame oil. Yes, it is a can! But why? Back in Chengdu, sesame oil is known to be the most commonly utilized condiment shared amongst diners across the day. This also implied that the exposed sesame oil faces a higher risk of unhygienic practices. Storing the sesame oil in disposable cans thus serve to ameliorate that health concern. So remember to crack open a can and have fun mixing it in with the other condiments.
We had the Damiao Traditional Yuan Yang Soup Pot ($ 20), which was essentially made up of a Fresh Mushroom & Pig Bone Soup and Damiao Special Spicy Soup that can each be ordered separately. If you’re worried about the level of spice of the Mala, fret not! The friendly service staff are more than willing to help you adjust the spice level to your preference. Feeling a tad overwhelmed by their selection of ala carte dishes? You could begin with the usual traditional hotpot ingredients, such as the Chicken Slices ($ 12), Fish Seedy Balls ($ 12), Crab Meat Stick ($ 8) and Luncheon Meat ($ 8).
If you’re a hotpot veteran, you might like to pick from Damiao’s premium meats ingredients such as the imported Australia Prime Beef ($ 32) and Boston Butt ($ 13) – which is really just a playful term for pork neck meat. I can’t say the same for other hotpot places, but Damiao sure delivers meats that are of superb quality.
Fresh Shrimp Paste ($ 18) ascended to one of my favourites in Damiao. Scoop up a spoonful of the shrimp paste and simmer for a while before coating it in the delicious sesame oil-condiment mix.
If you’re feeling bold, venture into some of Chengdu’s exotic foods, including the Swine Trachea ($ 16) or even Fresh Tripe ($ 16). Just as the staff described, the Swine Trachea does have a crunchy bite to it, whereas the fresh tripe on the other hand, has a dense and chewy texture. However, both ingredients are neutral in flavour, so remember to dip it in the condiment mix for additional flavours! The service staff recommends cooking these ingredients for only a short while before savouring on these Chengdu delights. Aside from the pre-cooked ingredients, there are also a variety of finger foods to order from. Indulge in a bowl of classic egg fried rice ($ 3) or Minced Meat Dumpling ($ 4) while waiting for your food to be cooked.
Helmed by an efficient team of chefs and service staff from Chengdu, Damiao is definitely your next go-to hotpot place to satisfy your mala craving. Though the traditional dishes (Luncheon Meat, Crab Meat Sticks) are slightly costly, I find the meats (e.g. Prime Beefs) in Damiao highly value for money. I would definitely be back not only for the hotpot, but also for the traditional Chengdu performances.
Note: This is an invited tasting.