umami seasons hotpot photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Umami Seasons Hotpot in the Delmar Loop

Across Melville Avenue from Blueberry Hill, and directly opposite Fitz’s Root Beer, Umami Seasons Hotpot has joined the Loop throng at 6602 Delmar Blvd. in University City. Umami Seasons serves Taiwanese hot pot, which is an interactive style of Asian dining (primarily Taiwanese and Chinese) where food is cooked at the table in different types of broth. Owner Poyi Liu explains that while Chinese hot pot experience tends to be larger and noisier, the Taiwanese emphasis is on warmth and intimacy.

“Where I come from, hot pot is a friendly, family vibe; people cooking together,” he said.

Indeed, this 1,000-square-foot space is intimate with about 60 seats. And it feels lavishly appointed in simple ways. The materials are solid — woods and metals and resins  —  and each table has its own induction cooker (which is not hot to the touch).

The decor, generally, alludes to another world, a faraway place. “Japanese in style,” Liu clarified. Note the slatted, woodsy ceiling, and the seats (and chopsticks) which are the green of a bamboo forest. It’s smooth and spare, just like the little bird logo on the sign above the door, and on the plaque facing you as you walk in.

For the time being, Liu will run the kitchen with a former sushi chef. “Hot pot has a similar concept [to sushi] – cutting, decorating and garnishing,” he said. There will be six different types of broth to choose from: tomato, spicy broth in the style of Chongqing, spicy vegetable, mushroom, golden broth and a broth of herbs. While there can tend to be an emphasis on beef for hot pot, the many choices here include chicken, pork, codfish, shrimp, mussels, scallops, baby octopus, squid and tofu.

Liu came initially to the U.S. to study aviation and even though he graduated from SLU’s  aviation program last year, he has ditched the idea of pursuing that career further. But all is not lost: “I learned some great skills that I can bring with me here,” he said. “Centeredness, peacefulness, and what to do in an emergency.”

Liu said, for now, the restaurant will offer non-alcoholic “exotic Asian drinks,” and American sodas.

Umami Seasons is open 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.