Just next to Great Leap Brewing
, off Chunxiu Lu, Hotalono Korean BBQ managed to escape us for a spell. Always on the look out for quality cheap eats in this lively concentration of bars and clubs, we had to see if its barbecue could stand up to some of the older, more established haunts in the area.
The space is large, with the seemingly obligatory mural of an SUV crashing through the wall (we’re still not sure how that’s become a ‘thing’) and light fixtures made from old liquor bottles. The K-pop soundtrack and rows of drained beer bottles that line the ceiling give the place a distinctly freshman vibe. We crack a menu and get down to it.
The grill-ables are standard and reasonably priced. From a portion of the pepper steak (38RMB), we work our way to the marinated short rib (48RMB) and fatty slices of pork belly (36RMB). The meats are decent, and the natural charcoal fire (6RMB) imparts a flavourful char, but the dipping sauce is decidedly average – and you can’t make your own. Bacon-wrapped bundles of enjoki
mushrooms, burnt black on the grill, are much better. The crunch of the charred bacon and the savory, dripping soaked mushrooms are a highlight.
We move on to a dish of kimchi (12RMB). Lacking heat, the red pickled cabbage is all bark and no bite. An order of Korean-style rice cakes (22RMB) is good but suffers from the same lack of heat as the kimchi.
Disappointed but not hopeless, we end the meal of flawed Korean snacks with a few bottles from the surprisingly wide bottled beer selection (from 15RMB) before getting the bill. Hotalono Korean BBQ is less of a reason to head over to the Xingfucun area, more of a passable option for a bite in the popular nightlife destination while you’re there.