For an update on the Random Hot Pot Place, also known as Shanghai Hinabe, click here.

It’s 7:00 p.m. on Friday and we’re at the Sandton Convention Centre. We’ve spent two hours at the Joburg Art Fair and we’re hungry. We don’t want to eat at Sandton City Mall or in Nelson Mandela Square. We’re not well dressed. We don’t want to travel far. We don’t have reservations and we don’t want to spend a fortune.

If you live in Joburg, you have certainly faced this problem. I now have your solution: the random Japanese hot pot place on 11th Street in Parkmore.

I wrote about Parkmore, a small suburb adjacent to Sandton City, in the SandtonPlaces book and I’ve sung Parkmore’s praises before. It’s home to Eatery JHB and several other great restaurants and shops. But I didn’t know about the Random Hot Pot Place until my friend Alessio mentioned it to me a few weeks ago.

I remembered Alessio’s recommendation on Friday evening and messaged him to ask the restaurant’s name. He couldn’t remember the name but said it’s on 11th Street, two doors down from Sway Night Club.

We found it easily: a small, brightly lit shopfront with a sign in Asian script. The Random Hot Pot Place was filled with Asians. Good sign. We sat down at a round table with a big hole in the middle and received two menus: one with words and prices, one with food pictures. We couldn’t comprehend either one.

Hot pot menu

I love the idea of “Sunny Lettuce”. For some reason we didn’t order it.

Fortunately the Random Hot Pot Place proprietress was extremely helpful and explained everything in broken but comprehensible English. First you order your soup — either hot or mild, or half-half — then you order all the things you want to cook in the soup by checking them off on the paper menu. The menu includes various meats, fish, vegetables, dumplings, noodles, and anything else you can imagine that cooks in hot water. It’s all delivered to your table and you cook and eat as you go.

There were three of us but we ordered enough food for five. This was our rookie mistake — not paying attention to how much we ordered and consequently eating and spending more than we needed to.

Hot pot table

Our table: Loaded, heated up, and ready to go. We ordered the soup half mild and half spicy, along with tofu, fish balls, mushrooms, bok choy, beef, and a few other things. The fish balls (bottom right) were my favorite. We also ordered a plate of tasty pre-cooked pork dumplings (not shown). Both soups were delicious and the spicy soup had a nice bite to it.

The soup adds really good flavor to the ingredients cooked in it. But in addition to the soup flavor, you’re also invited to visit the sauce bar at the back of the restaurant and mix up your own combination of sauce-like condiments.

Sauce bar

There are sauce recipes on the wall. But I let this nice lady (I think she is an owner or manager) mix up a sauce combination for me. Whatever she made me was delicious.

As the ingredients cook, you fish them out of the soup with a slatted spoon and add them to your small bowl along with some sauce. Then chow.

Hot post after

Our soup bowl with all the ingredients added. I forgot to take a picture of my small bowl of ready-to-eat food and sauce, which I refilled at least ten times.

We wound up spending a bit more than R400 ($40) between the three of us, including tip and Chinese tea. As I mentioned, we could have spent less if we’d ordered smarter. Nonetheless this meal was cheaper, and much more fun, than dinner at your average upscale Sandton City restaurant.

I still don’t know the name of this place. The business cards say “Night Shanghai Restaurant”, which is actually the name of a Chinese restaurant around the corner that is owned by the same lady. But don’t worry about the name. When you’re standing on 11th St. looking at Sway Nightclub, Random Hot Pot Place is two doors down on the right. You can’t miss it. Nor should you.

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