Lao Pot allows diners to customize their own soup and cook it right at the table.
With its eye-catching murals and hanging colored lights, Lao Pot is a decidedly prettier Asian food restaurant than others concentrated along John R Road in Madison Heights. The area is noted for offering this healthy style of cuisine at affordable prices.
Located just south of 14 Mile Road, Lao Pot is unique locally for its concept as a hot pot restaurant. Hot Pot Chen in Ann Arbor is one of the few others I’m aware of.
So, what exactly are “hot pot” restaurants? They’re similar and yet different from Mongolian barbecue-style restaurants, where grilling chefs make stir-fries from the diners’ choices of meat, seafood, vegetables, sauces and seasonings. Hot pot restaurants put diners in the driver’s seat, letting them choose the ingredients for a soup they will cook themselves.
At Lao Pot, a small burner lies beneath each place-setting at the table. The controls are under the table — choose “5” to start cooking. The first choice to make is the soup base. One or two (in a divided bowl) may be selected from a group of eight soups, including Tomato Ox Bone, Signature Spicy, Tom Yum and a vegetarian mushroom. I went with the latter two on my visits at dinner and lunch.
Other headings on the paper menu, with item boxes to check off, include meat balls, meat, vegetables, seafood, live seafood (stored in tanks), staple food (noodles and rice) and soy products.
The meat selections include items not typically desired by Western diners, such as boneless chicken feet. I played it safe and ordered certified Angus beef slices at both of my visits.
The vegetables list, also with some unusual varieties, is highlighted by a vegetarian platter that includes any five vegetables and soy products, and a mushroom platter. I went for spinach, sweet corn, Chinese white cabbage and a few more.
Everything arrived in huge quantities in pails or on platters. Here’s my suggestion: Share your stuff. You don’t need two orders of the same things, just order two soups. Also, visit the bar with myriad dipping sauces, cilantro and garlic to make your soup even more individual and delicious.
I preferred the lunch special with its set menu: one soup base, pre-selected veggies, limited meat and seafood choices and a starch. The categories are Vegetarian, 1 Meat, 2 Meat, Surf & Turf and Seafood Combo. Prices increase a bit for the Regular Combo, from 3-9 p.m. You’ll likely bring soup home.
Egg dumplings are among the specialty items. Appetizers range from Sesame Ball to Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream. Seven varieties of raw Hot Pot skewers are available.
Besides offering a full bar, non-alcoholic drinks include bubble tea and smoothies.
Open since Dec. 6, Lao Pot has seating for 250. Ricky Dong, co-owner of 168 Asian Mart on John R, designed the contemporary restaurant, incorporating traditional and modern elements.
32707 John R Road
Madison Heights, MI 48071
$$½ out of $$$$