I don’t know how they do it, but every single themed pop-up restaurant somehow manages to outdo its predecessor through an undeniable cuteness overload—especially the all-new Hello Kitty Mini Shabu Shabu pop-up restaurant. At first, I thought the Pusheen-themed one was elite tier, but when Sesame Street made its appearance, I was 100% smitten. I believed Kumoya had reached its peak with the We Bare Bears one (my colleague agrees wholeheartedly), but as always, I stand corrected. If you’re a mega Sanrio fan just like I am, you’re definitely going to want to make a trip down for this.
Credit – Kumoya
The Sanrio superstar brings with her a little bit of Japan all the way to Singapore, featuring a range of popular Japanese motifs such as kawaii kimono prints, Sakura flowers, and even Japanese lanterns. And what better way to admire this with your fellow Hello Kitty superfans than bonding over a hotpot dinner?
What I tried
For maximum convenience and ease of ordering, the hotpot meals come in sets consisting of a soup base, a pot of mixed vegetables, a choice of meat or vegetarian side, Hello Kitty-shaped rice or beetroot noodles, and one dipping sauce. Take your pick from staple hotpot ingredients such as the Ribeye Sliced (S$28.90) set, Seafood Mixed (S$33.90), or give their Vegetarian (S$24.90) set a shot, which consists of mock luncheon meat and fish strips.
Hotpot fans will also have a plethora of soup bases to choose from, with eight different options including Szechuan Mala, Sawadee Tomyum, Healthy Chicken, and even Chicken Beauty Collagen (additional S$6), a Hello Kitty Mini Shabu Shabu special. While incredibly adorable, I did find that the quality of the soup felt pretty lacklustre—I would’ve preferred a richer chicken broth, and this, unfortunately, was bland and watered down.
If you want to max out the level of charm during dinner, opt for a couple of Hello Kitty Mini Shabu Shabu Exclusive Kawaii Add-Ons, all of which are almost too cute to eat. The Silky Tofu Fish Cake (S$9.90) and Japanese Tamago (S$10.90) both come stamped with a picture of our favourite Sanrio princess. I also gave the Special QQ Mochi Rice Cake (S$8.90) a shot, simply because I was smitten by the little ribbons. It’s a bit of a bummer that once it’s in your mouth, the redeeming ‘cute’ visual factor dissipates, and all that’s left are ingredients that taste painfully average.
Accompanying your meal is a selection of drinks that comes with free, café-exclusive limited-edition Hello Kitty coasters. Of all three, the Mango Yuzu Frappe (S$13.90) was my favourite—imagine a citrusy-sweet blend, made creamy when mixed with fresh whipped cream and topped with sprinkles, icing flowers, and a piece of white chocolate. I’ll admit that it’s a pretty hefty price point, but for my adorable cat-shaped princess, anything.
Like everything else I’ve tried on the menu, the desserts boasted the one redeeming factor recurrent throughout the entire meal—they showed up wonderfully on photos and left much to be desired in terms of taste and quality. The Hello Kitty Apple Mousse Cake (S$12.90 a la carte, S$8.90 with every purchase of Hello Kitty Mini Shabu Shabu set) was certainly a sight to behold, with a jam-filled marshmallow encased in a bright-red sugar shell atop a chocolate tart, and served with ice cream and marshmallows.
It’s the one to go for if you’re feeding the camera first and foremost, though if you don’t have as huge a sweet tooth as I do, it’s best to give this sugar bomb a miss.
The Strawberry Swiss Roll (S$12.90 a la carte, S$8.90 with every purchase of Mini Shabu Shabu set) was the clear winner of the night; a pillow-soft, fuchsia-coloured slice of swiss roll served alongside vanilla ice cream, berries, and shortbread cookies.
As far as themed restaurants go, it’s safe to say that you can’t expect to have your cake and eat it too—while beautifully plated and full of gorgeous Hello Kitty-themed ingredients, I found that it fell short of the expectations I had for it. It’s definitely worth a visit just for the novelty and decorations, but if you want food good enough for a revisit and worthy enough to shout about from the rooftops, it might be best to admire from afar.
Expected damage: S$24.90+ per pax
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