JiYu Thai Hot Pot stands alone as a jungle oasis in the busy hustle bustle of Chinatown in the city. A Thai Style Hot Pot restaurant on the upper level with the entry on street level at 208 Little Bourke St, Melbourne - (03) 9639 3669, it's a sight for sore eyes, tucked away from the busy throngs of people on the street below. The restaurant is open Mon-Thu 11am to 3.30pm (lunch) and 5pm to midnight (dinner) and Fri-Sun 11am to 4.30pm (lunch), and 5pm to midnight (dinner).
The story begins in Phuket, Thailand in 1998 where the Thai Hot Pot made such an impression, the brand was bought out and taken to the Chinese market in Chengdu, home of giant pandas and hot pots. Since then JiYu has stood the test of time and holds its own in the extremely competitive Sichuan-style hot pot market. Famous for its secret distinctive soup, fresh seafood and divine desserts, it's the perfect environment to enjoy with family and friends.
Seafood hot pot is not all that JiYu serves. They have other Asian fusion food choices as well as signature meals, drinks and desserts. The set meal comes in quantities for a party of 2, 3 or 4, ranging from $68.80 to $168.80. The soup base does not come with the seafood hot pot set meal and must be purchased separately at $24.50 for a single flavour or $29.50 for the double flavour. Your choices are the signature Tom Yum Soup, the Thai Tom Kha Soup, Tomato Kangaroo Tail, Thai Pumpkin Soup with Crab, Thai Pepper Chicken Soup, Thai Fish Soup, Thai Curry Soup and the Premium Seafood Collagen Soup that attracts a price of its own at $88. Once the pot of broth arrives at your table it sits on a hotplate with the controls at your fingertips.
We had the set meal for 4 and it came with a vegetable platter, tiger prawns, blue swimmer crab, luncheon meat, seafood meatballs, scallops, baby abalone, crab sticks, basa slices, oysters, baby octopus, mussel, beef slices, fried cuttlefish ball and minced fish made in-house and brought to the table in a hollowed out bamboo stick and scooted into the broth, divided into portions. We were told the JiYu Poke Bowl was a signature dish best paired with the Tom Yum Soup, so we had some of that as well. It's basically a bowl of cooked corn kernels, diced tomatoes, diced spam, chopped long beans, puffed rice and diced seafood on a bed of rice, to which you add the hot and sour Tom Yum Broth, stir it all together and enjoy. You don't have to settle for the set meal. You can also make your own individual choices of meats, premium seafood and vegetables to brew in your broth.
Everything was so fresh and beautifully presented and the staff so attentive and helpful. By the end of our hot pot journey, we were super full and could not even contemplate dessert. However we enjoyed the pleasure of our flavour filled broth which all the meats and seafood had been cooked in. We chose the Tom Yum and the Thai Pumpkin Soup with Crab as the broth base and they just took you away on a journey of South-East Asian flavours. Alcoholic cocktails were available but we were happy with our watermelon juice and slightly tart plum juice, a favourite of mine for our lunchtime foray. The alcoholic cocktails served are lightly rich, fruity and creative with names like Mermaid & Fisherman, Sweet Romance, Romeo & Juliet, One Night in Phuket and The Lost Pearl; all with various bases of Vodka, Midori, Rum, Schnapps, Gin, fresh fruit and more. It's designed to balance out the spices with cool and refreshing flavours on the palate.
There are the usual soft drinks, teas and fresh juice available as well, along with Corona, Crown, Snow and Tsing-Tao beer. If you're hopping in for a bite to eat at lunch time, there are other options like snacks of Thai prawn pancake, deep fried cuttlefish ball, deep fried prawn platter, curry fish ball and Thai style stir fry pipis, or you can enjoy Mains like curry fried rice, the poke bowl you see in the picture, pineapple fried rice or seafood fried rice all between $12-$17. There's also calamari, crab and prawn curry and cold dishes like the Thai green papaya salad, Thai style chicken feet, a seafood salad or Signature sour spicy prawn for between $7-$12.
If you're after something a little sweet instead, stop in for a dessert of plum jelly, signature pudding, purple rice yoghurt, lava cake ($18.80), jasmine coconut jelly, mango sticky rice, osmanthus jelly or coconut cream jelly for an average of $5 to $10. The best part of the whole experience is that you can escape from whatever you're doing in the city and relax in a calming green environment, while enjoying tete-a-tete with family and friends over delicious fresh seafood. A spice-filled sensation destination, the Thai flavour invasion of Chinatown begins.