Hot pot restaurant turns up the heat

Mary Brooks and daughter Nancy are trying the hot pot special for dinner at Eurasian Hot Pot.

Mary Brooks and daughter Nancy are trying the hot pot special for dinner at Eurasian Hot Pot. (Photo by Iulia Gheorghiu)

The Eurasian Hot Pot restaurant that opened across from the Tenleytown Metro station in June is trying to develop its customer base now that it’s not too hot for hot pots.

“The hot pot is very popular now in California,” said Son Lee, owner of Eurasian Hot Pot.

The namesake of the restaurant is a traditional Mongolian dish prepared in boiling water and served fondue-style.

“The hot pot is not ideal for the summer, but we did very well. We did OK despite that,” said Lee.

Looking around Hot Pot on a recent weekday night, two couples were finishing their meals on the outdoor porch as two waiters paced between the empty tables indoors.

Juan Zulaga, Hot Pot’s manager, said the restaurant gets most of its traffic during lunch hours and on the weekend.

“Our customer base is still developing, and we will be distributing pamphlets soon to get people talking about our menu,” he said.

Hot Pot is a melting pot of cultural influences, serving authentic Vietnamese pho and vermicelli noodle dishes as well as classic tapas and meals with French, Spanish and Chinese influences, according to Lee.

The average entrée at Hot Pot costs $12.99. Zulaga warns that the food may seem a bit expensive on a college budget but that the great portions and authentic ingredients make it well worth the investment.

Raising the roof at the downstairs bar

Since its opening, Hot Pot has had extra seating and a marble-top bar, which have yet to be used.

Juan Zulaga mixing his personal creation, the Cherry Popper, at the new downstairs bar of Hot Pot

Juan Zulaga mixing his personal creation, the Cherry Popper, at the new downstairs bar of Hot Pot (Photo by Iulia Gheorghiu)

Lee said he felt pressured to focus on the restaurant and to create a good menu before considering opening up the bar. Hot Pot also lacked a certified bartender before Zulaga was added to the staff.

“We’re just trying to bring more people downstairs,” said Zulaga.

Zulaga has ordered a karaoke system for the basement and plans to supplement Hot Pot’s happy hour with alternating “ladies’ night” and “boys’ night” specials.

Zulaga worked as a property manager in Virginia before joining the restaurant. He joined the Eurasian team a month ago to help separate the restaurant from other “pho joints” and bring a higher quality to customers’ experiences.

“Usually the owners go for anything that I want to do, so that’s a plus,” said Zulaga.

He is enthusiastic about reaching out to nearby American University and bringing on-campus musical groups to perform on weeknights.

“I would love a jazz night, and the sky’s the limit down here,” Zulaga added from behind the bar.

Dupont sister restaurant struggles

Lee opened Pho Eurasian in Dupont two months before he opened Tenleytown’s Hot Pot. The Dupont restaurant was focused around traditional Vietnamese pho and vermicelli dishes.

But he said Pho Eurasian has not been as successful as Eurasian Hot Pot.

“Here, we are by the Metro, but it’s more residential,” said Lee. “In Dupont, it’s just a downtown area, and the restaurant is still so new.”

Lee’s wife, Jennifer, is the head chef at both locations. She is responsible for preparing large batches of noodles and broths, as well as any of the items that her husband has put on the menu.

“She runs back and forth between the two each day,” he said.

Both restaurants have their own websites, and Zulaga says they have launched social media pages for the Hot Pot location to reach out to the students and the Tenleytown community.

What’s the next step for Eurasian Hot Pot?

“Now, I’ll be trying to win all my money back,” said Lee, laughing.


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