Sunday, October 29, 2006

Foodventure #8: Jazz Cat Cafe (Alhambra)

During cold weathers (well, as cold as Southern California can get), few meals warm the soul and bring people together like the cook-while-you-eat stuff: shabu shabu, fondue, hotpots, etc.

Of course, along with these meals, there's always the question: "OK, whose piece of meat/veggie is that?"

Some places try to solve that with different-colored skewers (e.g.
The Melting Pot chain) ~ others, like the restaurant of this post - gives you a pot all of your own!

Jazz Cat Cafe (on the corner of Valley & 7th in Alhambra) is a Taiwanese-style restaurant specializing in mini hot-pots, fired up by sterno flammable gel. Choose your own meat, your preparation (ranging from a light veggie broth to a more rich cream & cheese soup and even a Korean kimchi stock,) wait a few minutes and voila! a mini hot pot all your own w/o fussing with other peoples' utensils or worrying about fishing out mysterious items that you didn't put in yourself.

Today, I opted for a "European curry" style base with beef, along with a "brown sugar iced milk tea":

The milk tea is definitely one of the better ones I've had, something I can definitely attribute to the toasty nutty hint from the brown sugar. Of course, getting an extra-large version served in a carafe only sweetens the pot - literally.

Then my meal arrives:

Good portions of beef along with the hot pot veggies (daikon, cabbage, carrots, leafy greens, etc.) some seafood balls & a raw (soon-to-be-poached) egg, some uncooked vermicelli, dipping sauce and a bowl of rice. Perhaps most unusual of all is that bamboo scooper of meat paste -- which I best guess as "making your own meatballs." Well into the pot these items go . . .

Of course with no timer and a heat source that's unadjustable, it's a bit hard figuring out what's ready & what's not -- but all in all, my eyeballing approach worked well.

The make your own meatballs turned out pretty good - reminiscent of dumpling fillings. The beef and veggies all in all was decent - though I wish the broth had more curry flavor and more spicy. I've also tasted my friends' soup bases (cream and cheese & "the original") and found them similarly bland. But at least no arguing about unidentified floating, boiling objects.

The bill:
$10.95 for mini hot pot
$1.95 for drink (slightly cheaper if ordered with entree)
Subtotal: $12.90

My ratings:
Ambience/Decor - 3/5 (orderly rows of tables and boothes, clean & efficient but not much else)
Value - 4.5/5 (generous portions, good deal for food you get)
Service - 7/10 (again, efficient & quick, not particularly friendly or hostile)
Food - 15/20 (could've put together a better hot pot myself ~ particularly a more flavorful broth, but everything's not bad)
Bonus/Demerit - N/A
TOTAL - 29.5/40 (will probably return when I get a hot pot craving and too lazy to setup one myself & clean up afterwards ~ from my other visits, their appetizers, including fried chicken pieces and taiwanese-style sausages with garlic, are pretty yummy.)

Other notes:
- parking on Valley or the side streets is easier than manuevering in the dinky, usually-full lot behind the restaurant
- I don't believe they take reservations, so prepare for a wait especially when dining during peak hours

Jazz Cat Cafe
640 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA
(626) 293-8999


Chubbypanda said...

Now we're talking. Hot pot season is coming up!

- Chubbypanda

Anonymous said...

hi H.C.,

i live in Alhambra and i've yet to go to Jazzcat. i'll prob stop by after your review. thanks! i usually go to shabu house in j-town.

anyways, i use a $200 Sony W50 for my video's. I usually have whoever's eating with me shooting. they do a pretty good job... i've shot a few myself.


Anonymous said...

that's a huge carafe for 1.95.

djjewelz said...

I thought the food there was a little on the sweet side, but a unique idea.

Anonymous said...

I love that place! I went there 4 times in a row.


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