The Dolar Shop is not a discount variety shop, rather it is the latest outpost from the Chinese Macanese hot pot eatery chain. Located in the 1909 dining precinct of Market City it offers people a large hot pot menu with 6 soup bases and a range of items to dip into the pots.
The response came fast from Mr NQN after I sent him the calendar invitation. "Why are we going to a dollar store for my birthday dinner with your parents?" he asked. The name does suggest otherwise but the sleek, glam booths of the month old Chinese hot pot restaurant belie this. The Dolar Shop service is very friendly and sweet from the all female service team - not words usually used to describe service at Chinese restaurants (curt or perfunctory comes to mind). You can also book here.
There is a list of three warning tips for diners: be careful of high heat from broths, be careful of ball shaped items (!!) due to heat build up in the centre and please inform your waiter of any allergies, consuming raw or undercooked food may increase your risk of food borne illness. The ball one is a new one to me!
Although it says Chinese Macanese, there aren't any Macanese dishes and it seems more Sichuan hot pot than anything else. We choose one soup base per person: for my chilli phobic father it's the mild chicken consommé with carrot, leek, celery, onion, potato and lemon. For Mr NQN it is the tomato and oxtail broth with tomato relish, beef oxtail, green onion and wedges of tomato. For me I have the pork leg bone broth with green onion, bamboo shoot and bean curd strips while my mother has a combination with spare rib broth and a Szechuan hot and spicy broth in medium heat.
Snacks and drinks for people waiting
They suggest that we order the soups first as they take some time to heat up and then place our order for the meats, seafood and vegetables. These are sliced and served from the kitchen and from the centre open kitchen area.
You've got to love a menu broken into sections like "Balls" "Broth" Asia's Favourite" "Fungi" and "Starch". All of the items with an award symbol are recommended dishes. "Do you really want three starches?" they ask and I nod yes but refrain from extolling my love for carbs, carbs and more carbs.
We try each other's broths and they're all very distinct although the Szechuan hot and spicy and pork spare rib broth is the favourite while the tomato and oxtail is surprisingly good. The chicken is true to form and soothing while the pork is probably my least favourite in that it is so mild but indistinct. During the night they top up the bowls with more broth.
While we are waiting, my mother and I go up to get sauces while we leave my father and Mr NQN to catch up on the gossip. Just kidding, I'm pretty sure that my hard of hearing father and shy husband just sat there in amiable silence nodding at each other occasionally taking sips of water.
The condiment station has a slogan that reads, "The most exciting and comprehensive sauce bar to hot pot that you have ever seen" and I read this with a Trump voice in my head (try it, it's scary). You also have to pay $3 extra per person to have the sauces but sauce is life for me and it also comes with watermelon and honeydew melon cubes, a gingery kim chi, peanuts and an odd sort of couscous, corn, pea and carrot salad.
We take a few of the sauces including a peanut sauce, sesame sauce, XO sauce, chilli sauce, chive sauce, mushroom sauce, garlic, peanuts, shallots and they come up to us at the table and offer some of the Dolar Shop's sauce mixture with green onion, garlic, coriander and chilli with soy sauce.
The Dolar Shop Banana Egg Pancake $11.90
The egg pancakes are best eaten hot and they're like a banana and egg roti. I like them dipped in the peanut sauce but I wished they were hotter as they were just warm by the time they reached us. Everyone else seemed to really like them though.
The shrimp pâté comes out as a large ball of minced prawns with water chestnut and celery. They help us by taking a long spoon to this and depositing some spoonfuls of this into each of our hot pots. It's very good-fresh and flavoursome especially with the mushroom sauce and chilli sauce.
The Dolar Shop Shrimp Pâté $16.90 (front), Veggie Basket $17.90 and sweet potato pappardelle $5.90 (right)
Which brings me to two other favourite items. Now a huge bowl of salad doesn't usually excite many people but I loved having all of these vegetables on hand because sometimes hot pot feels too meat heavy. This is a lot of vegetables, even for four people and they do take a while to cook but it's nice to follow the meat with something healthy. In the basket are a napa cabbage, lettuce, watercress, spinach, tong ho and purple lettuce. They're all mild greens that cook up well without going slimy.
The sweet potato pappardelle was another item that I really liked. I think it is sweet potato mixed with a flour to form a pasta style dough that cooks super quickly in the pot. It has a slightly springy texture like rice flour and it slippery and full of carby goodness.
Selected platter $19.90
we also tried the signature shrimp balls, fish roe balls, cuttlefish balls, cheesy beef balls and beef balls. It's not so much a platter but more a plate with 11 balls on it and so not everyone got to try everything although the fish roe balls were a favourite. You're probably better off ordering them separately if there are more than two of you.
M6+ Wagyu Boneless Short Ribs $32.90 for 150g
We ordered two types of meat, the first was the wagyu boneless short rib slices, paper thin and served over ice. They're fast to cook and wonderful dipped in the sauces of your choice.
Kurobuta Pork $12.90
We also loved the pork which really melted in the mouth and cooked quickly too.
Hand crafted noodles $5.90
The noodles come in three bundles and they're fine but they do make your soup a bit cloudy. Honestly I preferred the sweet potato pappardelle because it was much more interesting and had a better texture.
Shrimp won ton $9.90
Another delicious morsel are the shrimp and pork won tons. These are particularly good dunked in the chilli sauce.
There's no dessert (although perplexingly there is a picture of a soft serve on the menu) but we are full to the brim. The birthday boy Mr NQN happily eats his fill of watermelon and honeydew which they have brought to the table.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like hot pot? Which broth would you have chosen? And are you cautious of hot ball shaped items?
This meal was independently paid for.
The Dolar Shop
1909 Dining Precinct level 3 Market City 9-13 Hay St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Open 7 day 11am–10pm
Phone: (02) 9281 2617
Free parking if you enter the car park after 6pm