In Heaven With Hot Pot
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Upon entering Hot Pot Heaven in Pearl Kai Shopping Center, it’s impossible to resist the aromatic wafts of broths simmering over hot plates at each table, enticing diners into an utterly satisfying and customizable dining experience of cooking their own nourishing meal to perfection.
It was that same seasoned scent that lured husband-and-wife duo Cosme and Violeta Rivera into the original Hot Pot Heaven at McCully Shopping Center, which they frequented before branching out to start the first franchise operation of the restaurant.
“My son introduced us to Hot Pot Heaven at McCully and said we should try it because it’s a very healthy spot,” explains Violeta. “It became our outing place; every weekend we would go and whenever we had visitors from out of town, we would take them there. We grew to love it.”
The Riveras loved it so much so that they opened their own branch earlier this year, welcoming patrons into a new home of hot pot cravings. The menu offers a wide range of island flavors, with a focus on Vietnamese and Thai inspirations. Diners may first choose a broth to serve as the flavorful foundation of any hot pot meal, and if they order two broths in one pot, the second soup base is half off — and refills are free. The Riveras recommend starting with some of the most popular stocks, including galangal ginger-filled Thai broth, which has a lovely hint of sourness from the pickled cabbage and vinegar used in the recipe. Mushroom broth is another fine choice, as the chicken-based liquid blossoms throughout the cooking process with king oyster, enoki and button mushrooms.
Next, guests can venture to the refrigerators to select vegetables, noodles, tofu, dumplings, seafood, fish cake and more to throw into the bubbling soup.
Taking extra care to ensure meals are as fresh as possible, meat selections are cut to order at Hot Pot Heaven, and Violeta suggests going with boneless short ribs, a new selection, in addition to savory seductions like pork belly. The kitchen adds a personal touch to many of the soup fillings, making items like homemade gyoza, stuffed aburage, pork and shrimp cabbage rolls, and ground pork and shrimp sausage in house.
To the Riveras, Hot Pot Heaven represents much more than a gathering place for customers to enjoy a well-rounded meal. For the couple, originally from the Philippines, their new business venture also signifies vitality, as they came out of retirement to open the eatery. In addition to being a Realtor, Violeta worked for the state for 30 years, while Cosme’s profession was in the construction industry. Rather than become idle after decades of hard work, they decided to stay active by embarking on a new career path, one that allows them to spend time with their son and daughter in law — and their granddaughter — all of whom help out at the restaurant in their spare time.
Rivera adds that she embraced the opportunity to provide more jobs in the community by employing 22 people at the eatery, and that she enjoys making guests feel at home. “This is where my heart goes. I like to help people,” she says.
Feeling saucy? Be sure to hit up the sauce bar to add even more flavors to your hot-pot experience. Choices include miso, ginger, black bean, bean curd, hot sauce and more.
Hot Pot Heaven
Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea (Behind Jiﬀy Lube)
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.