Sweet Home Cafe is another restaurant that specializes in one thing, and one thing only–Taiwanese hot pot. There is no shortage of patrons. By the time we arrived at the restaurant at 5:30pm, there was already a waiting list. We didn’t get seated until after 6:30, and I’ll say it right now, the wait was worth it.
If the visit is your first, you will be given detailed instructions on how the operation works. First, you select a broth from among many. Then, you choose one or more meats (beef, pork, lamb, or beef tongue). If you’re on the waiting list, the maitre d’ will ask you to make your selections right away so that when you get seated, the broth and meat(s) will immediately be brought to your table. You may be told that the three most popular are the house special, spicy and healthy herb broths. Every patron is not required to order a meat (we selected a single serving of beef). If you want two broths (to try different ones), you will be charged for two broths, which will be served in a divided vessel. The container is placed on top of an electric hot plate. We selected the spicy and house special broths.
Once you get seated, you then select however many wrapped plates of ingredients as you wish from the coolers along the back wall. Each plate is color-coded: $2.75 for white or green; $3.75 for yellow or orange; $4.75 for blue. There is a bewildering selection of vegetables, seafood, organ meats, noodles, and several kinds of tofu from which to choose. I can’t even provide a complete list. We chose soft tofu, watercress, sliced squashes, nappa, lobster balls, and fresh shiitake.
As if selecting ingredients weren’t enough, you can choose one or more of fourteen different dipping sauces: homemade*, sesame, Chinese-style shabu shabu, hoisin, sweet honey mustard, Chinese-style steamed soy sauce with chili pepper, chili garlic, oyster chili*, homemade spicy, miso*, Thai-style sweet and sour, black bean*, tomato chili* and hot bean curd*, all of them prepared in-house. Every single one we tried (asterisked above) was delicious.
At first, you may be intimidated by this whole process, aggravated by the tight spaces, mostly community-shared tables, and human traffic to and from the coolers, but you’ll quickly get settled and concentrate on the task at hand.
Steamed white rice is also provided.
Once the meal is over, you will be given a dessert gratis. Finely crushed ice (not as fine as shave ice) was surrounded by scoops of green tea and pineapple tapioca pearls, coffee mochi cubes, soft tofu, with the whole works drizzled with condensed milk and almond cream, and topped with an espresso mousse. Despite the fact that the tapioca flavors were artificial and the ice clumped in several places, the mousse, mochi balls and almond flavor were absolutely delicious. If you stuffed yourself with the main meal, you’ll still find the room to (mostly) finish this stellar dessert. It’s possible that the dessert might change periodically.
From start to finish, the dining experience was extraordinary. Not only was the meal fantastic, the entire wait staff was very friendly. Sweet Home Cafe aims to make you feel at home and is on our list of must-return places.
Sweet Home Cafe
2334 S. King St (McCully/Moiliili)