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A relatively new entry into the food landscape, the first North American Morals Village Hot Pot was opened in Toronto in 2014. It quickly went onto the list of top hot pot venues in the city, according to blogTO. The newest Morels Village Waterloo location, in the University Plaza near Phillip Street, is the company’s third location (they have plans to expand to Mississauga and Ottawa).
Demographically, and in terms of population, it made sense for the company to pop up near the two universities. The eating mode of hot pot is a popular one in Chinese culture – Morals Village is, they say, seeking to expand that into what they see as a kind of “cultural exchange” that can occur over a bubbling, boiling pot of aromatic broth and introduce it to a broader audience in Waterloo Region.
Hot pot is a communal meal event. You pick your soup base (at Morals Village, that is about 12 selections), from “10-year-old” special spicy and sweet tomato ox, to Hong Kong satay and Mountain Cliff wild mushroom. The split pot is best to balance the milder with spicy. Two hot pots will serve about five people.
If you choose, you can then add various specialty dishes (and premium priced ingredients) such as certified Angus short rib, Wagyu short rib, Kagoshima pork and tiger shrimp. Otherwise, the all-you-can-eat menu runs to over 100 items (squid balls, taro, hand-made noodles, cuttlefish, tofu puffs and lotus roots and many, many others) in about 11 categories.
There are, of course, delicious offal cuts: tripe (which was very fresh and very delicious), pork blood, duck giblets and kidney. The beef tongue I had, for instance, was very, very good. Special ingredients, such as peppers, are grown on the Morals Village farm in China. Morals Village has branded themselves as east-meets-west: you can see that in the “French-inspired sweet corn soupbase,” for instance.
Weekday prices are $26 per person – but then you buy your soup base for about $8. It makes the all-you-can-eat (AYCE) process a bit more expensive than might be expected at an AYCE sushi joint; however, the key, according to company officials, is high-quality premium ingredients and what they refer to as proprietary, “signature” soup bases.
The kitchen is spotlessly clean and holds several huge 120-qt. stockpots of broth gently simmering away; the smorgasbord that comes to your table is pretty impressive.
The recommended drinks are quite tasty and prepared in-house: freshly squeezed pear juice, watermelon and kiwi juice, the latter served in bubble-tea style. The restaurant is not currently licensed for alcohol, but they are planning for that soon, including reaching out to Waterloo Region brewers. A crisp pilsner would certainly work well with the hotter dishes.
After you order, you go to the dipping sauce station, grab a bowl or two and select from a dozen or sauces from simple soya sauce to more complex and spicy and garlicky ones. When your dishes arrive at your table, you will see two sets of chop sticks: one longer set for adding uncooked ingredients to the soup and the other set for removing the cooked food and eating it. It’s cook-it-yourself all-you-can-eat. And it’s a fun communal experience.
Morals Village is located in the University Shops Plaza, University Avenue and Phillip Street. It opens daily at 4 p.m.