HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Little Q Hotpot Truly Superb

Had heard such raves about this place when it was in Quincy, but somehow never got down there. Now that it is in Arlington it is DEFINITELY part of the rotation.

Food wise, WOW!!! Hands down best food of this style I have ever eaten. So much better then the other Shabu Shabu joints in Boston.

We had a combo with the Sirloin and veggies. Also ordered corn, mushroom plate, Udon, and Shandong noodles. The Shandong noodles were way better then the ordinary Udon.

We also ordered some tongue.

Combo give you two broths, we went Mala and herbal.

Both broths were culinary things of beauty. Truly awesome. The herbal I drank a lot of as soup as we worked our way through the meal. Complex, laden with very fresh cumin seed, and another 20 notes of barks, berries, etc.

Think one was Chinese black cardomom:


And Dried Ju Ju Be fruits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jujube

There was also a very pungent cardomom like pod that was white and a bit plumper and much zingier then regular cardomom.

I kept gnawing on various barks and berries as they cooked and they were all really quite amazing.

The meats were downright gorgeous, shimmering slivers of jewel-like pristine meat. One of the best preps for tongue I've ever eaten. A small tip, I always like to eat the meat rare, or medium rare, it's fine if you let it cook through, but so much beefier rare.

The Ma La broth was eyewateringly strong, and intensified A LOT as we ate, the flavors steeped, and the broth reduced.

Both my DC and myself had "holey cow I just shot chili, cumin, ma la (Sichuan Pepper corn) up into my brainstem, I may go blind but in the very best way" moments. As we finished the Ma La broth had turned into an oily firey cauldron of beefy brothy wonder.

I had them package it up and am dreaming of throwing some chinese noodles I have in the freezer on in for a little repeat performance.

Mushroom plate had fresh oyster, porcini, enokitake, matsutake, and reconstituted dried cloud ear. All wonderful.

Corn cooked in the broth was great.

Also had a selection of wonderful if slightly pricey cold sake. They seem to be waiting for a restocking order on this front.

Our hostess and the wait staff were patient and wonderful.

Whew, short version, for one of my best Boston meals of 2010. Run don't walk, this is what chowhounding is all about.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I was the lucky DC. Definitely one of my best meals for 2010 so far ... and I'd go back in a heartbeat, like tonight.

    The tongue was superb -- soft and melty after a quick swish swish in the spicy broth. Sirloin good too, but I'd also like to try the various balls you can get (chicken balls, pork balls, lamb balls) as well.

    As Stripey said, the broth intensified after a while -- to the point that the last batch of Shandong noodles (and these were just simply the BEST) were close to painful to eat. In a good way.

    The staff were superb -- explaining what to do, when to do it, etc, and clearly enjoying our enthusiasm. It was like a mutual admiration society -- no YOU are the best! No YOU! But I really loved it at Little Q and can't wait to head back.

    Below is a fuzzy picture of our broth selections.

    8 Replies
    1. re: yumyum

      They also have a little logo that makes you want to steal all the dishes. But that's not about food, now is it?

      1. re: yumyum

        Hmm, wonder if I could get Mrs. MC to wear shrimp as barrettes?


        1. re: yumyum

          Dropped in late for a bowl of soup,
          prev. experience having been Ltd. to a few Shabu places.
          The hot pot seems a Sichuan orientation, agree its
          slightly better than others, staff willing to please, extensive choices,
          I had a very simple (BLACK BONE CHICKEN) broth (nice) with some shrimp balls. (not enough flavor to compete with the broth) they served a comp. cold Kimchee like dish, only milder than the Korean version, they insisted that it belonged only in the soup for flavor,..I liked it much better as a cold crunchy veg. -similar & more mild than Scz Gourmet's (Billerica's) cold chili-cabbage side.
          and was impressed with the complexity of the broth, the ginseng like root, ginger: (long intense strips of fresh shaved root this evening), whole cardamon pods chilies etc.indeed became more pronounced as the bowl dwindled,
          getting spicier and finally hotter as well thanks to a whole chili
          Staff seemed very pleased that we were happy with the first visit.
          unpretentious place trying to do one thing especially well.
          with little pretense. I liked it a lot.
          its a fun meal to eat, OR deconstruct, a definite keeper...

          Would be a great first date place as you can
          1. Find a topic of conversation starter in the bowl in front of you,
          figuring out what the hell your eating, and:

          2. Dump her (or him) if their not adventurous enough to get into the swim of things.

          The Villain

          397 Hancock St, Quincy, MA

        2. re: yumyum

          How could we have forgotten the Balls? There was literally a whole section of the menu called BALLS including ground fish, pork, beef, etc. Next time.

          1. re: yumyum

            I am seriously jealous. I live close to Quincy and Little Q was the go-to place for my family. There is a very good Shabu restaurant in North Quincy, so we are not bereft by any means, but I am glad that our loss is your gain! We'll just have to plan a few trips to Arlington.

            397 Hancock St, Quincy, MA

            1. re: chowfamily

              Super easy parking, not some crazy hinterland to get to. Please come up North and keep them busy.

            2. re: yumyum

              Thanks for the research on the elements of the herbal broth.
              This place rocks.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                All three of those I mention above were in both broths. Think the herbal one has other indeciperable items where the MaLa definitely has chili and Sichuan peppercorns that are not in the herbal.

            3. As a big fan of Little Q when it was in Quincy, I'm sorry that they couldn't seem to find a space to re-open near by.

              If you go frequently, make sure to try some items from the "Foundation Items" section of the menu. Specifically, the lamb dumplings and the scallion pancakes are outstanding.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mwk

                Thanks for the tip. Lamb dumlings fo sho.

              2. I love beef tongue in hot pot! It's one of the few cuts that are a must have when we have hot pot out or at home. The other item I used to like at the Quincy Little Q was a type of white fish - it was easy to cook, retained its sweet flavor, and was light, especially if you go for a heavier broth. While udon or shandong noodles are more standard,we also love getting nian go (rice cakes) . I enjoy the chewy texture, and find that it absorbs the taste of the soup well. I miss Little Q and hope we can find time to hit Arlington.

                1. I was there the first night with my wife, and they seemed pleasantly surprised with the customer traffic. I believe they are doing well in East Arlington, so I hope they have a long future in front of them.

                  I've been back twice, once more with the hot pot - we always get the duo, but last time we basically just worked out of the spicy broth side.. Packing up the broth is a great idea - I find myself slurping the spicy broth at the end of the meal. The pan-friend pork dumplings are quite good as well....

                  One criticism - I find the combo's sort of a waste... it costs a lot more and you just get a plate of veggies.. I find its better to just order ala carte for items.. and god, more power to them, but that ala carte menu is LONG....

                  But don't get me wrong.. I am going back there... a LOT..

                  1. Finally made it over with my vegetarian DC - who was very happy with miso broth and such a wide selection of veggies - various fresh mushrooms, lotus root, broccoli, tofu, etc... Yum. They had dropped off a menu for takeout delivery at our apartment, though I can't imagine hot pot can be delivered! Unfortunately the Szechuan menu did not have much for vegetarian options.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: cindywho

                      You *could* heat the broth on the stove....maybe not today...

                      1. re: cindywho

                        The take out menus (at least the ones I have) don't have the hot pot section on them -- just the plated items. They're so nice there, though, I bet they'd let you buy a container of broth to take home if you wanted.

                        For the record, their take out has been pretty good (with the exception of the scallion pancake, which -- not surprisingly -- suffered in the steamy takeout container environment.)

                        1. re: litchick

                          Thinking a bit more, would not want them to get in trouble with the public health police by providing raw food for take-out - that might be a no-no...but I bet you could get them to see you just the broth and you could cook your own raw food at home.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            I briefly considered how they might do it - but decided I'd be perfectly happy to go out for hot pot. The menu they left on our doorstep did have the hot pot section (which was how I convinced my DC to go - evidence of many veggies)

                            1. re: cindywho

                              FWIW, I've seen hot pot stuff on foodler for at least one local place (Zoe, I think). I've always wondered how they did it, but figured it'd be awful so never bothered to find out. But at least that's one data point that they can do it.

                      2. The husband and I went to Little Q last night in an attempt to beat the heat. I like the simplicity of the decor. We had a nice bottle of sake, the pan fried pork dumplings, and some hot pot! Everything was great. We got the summer cooler (at least I think that's what it was called) and the mala broth. I had the angus slices, he got the pork combo and some beef tendon. The mala broth is outstanding, spicy without being too scary and it had so much flavor by the end! The husband couldn't stop eating! We definitely plan on going back with a lot of folks so we can try more. And I want to try the take out.

                        I should also add that the service was pretty great too.

                        1. I'm pretty excited about trying this place out. What is the parking situation like there? Will we have a hard time finding parking? Also, is it recommended that we make reservations during the week (lunch or dinner)?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Ladycale

                            Not normally... street parking on Mass Ave might be tricky at peak times, but just head down one of the nearby residential side streets (some are one-way) and park. I live a few blocks away and am pretty used to having people park on my curbs..

                          2. I'm curious, can veggie broth and a meat-based broth coexist in the combo pots with pretty good separation to keep the vegetarian happy?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bear

                              I think so - there is a metal divider, so they do not co-mingle at all - are you thinking the splash effect? Or using the spoon from one in the other? Each half gets its own slotted spoon and ladle, so the utensils can be kept separate too.

                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                Hey, thanks, Bob. That's helpful. My son won't worry about an occasional non-veggie splash, but wouldn't be happy if there was lots of mingling of broths. Can't wait to give it a try.

                            2. Have to also mention that I did take follow through on my plan with the leftover Ma La broth. Added some nice thick shanghai style wheat noodles that I had in the freezer (boiled in regular water first) tossed them in the reheated Ma La sauce, topped with piles of fresh cilantro and scallion. Topped with some leftover pitty pan squash and pea tendrils I had made the night before. Amazing. Truly delicious.

                              Though my dear SO thought I was dying as I went through 15 tissues and repeatedly uttered forth frightening coughs, wheezes, and snorting sounds. Even with the ceiling fan on I was in a full flop Ma La sweat. Dang that stuff got hot steeping in the fridge for 3-4 days. So so good thought.

                              May have been the hottest meal I have ever eaten.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                Love it. It was almost too hot for me when we left the restaurant. Can't imagine what it would be like 4 days later. Oy.

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  Near the end of a recent meal, during a mis-slurp a bit of the spicy broth got into my sinuses.. I thought my head was going to explode.

                                  But for those interested, don't fear the spicy broth.. its got a lot of flavor to it, not just heat, and different food items pick it up more than others..

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    Never even occurred to me that you could take the leftover broth home with you until I saw someone last week whip out a plastic container for the leftovers. I have been going there weekly for lunch since they opened and it's great! Nice people, excellent service and everything is really good and I think the lunch hot pots are a steal and now when I have a big container of cooked down Mala broth sitting in the fridge it got even better. Tried the spicy house noodle soup last week and it was very good with variety of meat balls floating around in a spicy broth. Not as hot as the cooked down Mala broth but very nice. I had the black chicken broth with the fish and it was nice. Fish took a little longer to cook than I expected. Should I have had the seafood broth with the fish or would that be to fishy? I also have tried the shrimp with shells on and after throwing heads and shells into the broth that got really tasty after a while. Wish that the peanuts and cabbage offerings had more of a kick.

                                  2. Went here for the first time after seeing all the great reviews, and you're all dead-on... this place is terrific. My only previous experience with hotpot was Jin in Saugus, which was fairly mediocre. But at Little Q, the service, selection, freshness and prices are all really wonderful.

                                    I had half mala broth and half herbal, and they were both excellent in their own way. Beef tongue, shrimp, scallops, beef balls, veggie platters, fried tofu and egg dumplings went in, and wow. Honestly, when I go back I won't bother with the seafood so much -- the best parts of the meal were the green veggies and beef tongue. A mushroom plate like StriperGuy had would be a good choice, too. That mala broth is completely amazing stuff.

                                    I was also happy to see paper-wrapped chicken as an app -- the only place I've seen it in town.

                                    1. Finally made my way over here...My wife was feeling under the weather this past Friday night, stuffy nose, congestion, etc. My first thought was Korean, our default place being Chung Ke Wai in Medford Square. We ended up trying Little Q Hot Pot in Arlington on Mass Ave for the first time. If I had not known about this restaurant from CH, I would have continued to blow right by it while making my way to Cambridge on Mass Ave. My gut reaction after the first bite: This place blows away Shabu Zen.

                                      Our order for Little Q:
                                      Two broth's: Black Chicken and Miso
                                      Appetizer: Lamp Steam Dumplings (I like my dumpling's dough on the lighter side. But the strong lamb flavor won me over. These were awesome)
                                      Accompaniments for hot pot: beef tongue, fish dumplings, shrimp without shell, scallop, mushroom platter, pea pods, baby bok choy, lotus root
                                      Noodles: shandong noodles, cellophane noodles
                                      Total Damage before tip: $55

                                      The interior is pretty plain, a couple things on the walls, with tables along each side with an aisle down the middle. The first thing that hit me about this place was the strong aroma right as you walk in the door. Shabu Zen doesn't give me that feeling, either their Chinatown or Brighton Location. I was blown away by the size of the menu (specifically hot pot). The selection of vegetables, meats, seafood. It was overwhelming wanting to try everything on the first visit.

                                      The broths came out first in a large kettle as those experienced with hot pot would expect. I had the black chicken broth, which came out filled with aromatics that I ended up having to pull out throughout my meal (my one nit, but understandable given my broth choice). The mushroom plate was another great choice, some of the mushrooms I would not be able to name by sight. (If anyone knows, there was one that looked like crumpled up paper, dark brown in color, chewy consistency. What is that? Incredible when soaked for a good few minutes)

                                      I have to say that Little Q has now become our default hot pot location. Between the overwhelming array of choices (a vegetarian could easily and happily survive here), the flavorful broth, and reasonable prices, we will definitely be regulars here during the colder months.

                                      Shabu Zen
                                      78 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: jforman

                                        I think your "crumpled paper" mushrooms are likely wood ear mushrooms. Sometimes also sliced into thinner strips in things like hot and sour soup or stir fries.

                                        Glad you enjoyed the place, as I love Little Q and am quite sad they are no longer in Quincy. I agree that the broths pack a punch. Interestingly enough, I fell on a Little Q in Japan and had to stop by and try. Menu is very different, with lots of interesting ingredients, but same idea -- and of course, at least 2x the price. But that aside, in Tokyo they provide little urns on the table specifically for straining out all the stuff in the broth. I wish they offered that here too, as I also find them to be in the way after cooking gets started. You can also barely see what's cooking in the pot because of the herbs floating up top.

                                        I really enjoy the black chicken and mala broths. I like Shabu Zen as well, but the reason Little Q has the stronger smell upon entrance is that their broths also focus on providing a little healthy boost by using a number of herbs used in medicinal soups. Taken by anyone in good health, not necessarily when one is ill.

                                        Shabu Zen
                                        16 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        1. re: kobuta

                                          i haven't tried all their broths but i thought the "Mongolian vegetable" broth at Q in Chinatown was pretty tasty

                                          1. re: kobuta

                                            Kubota, you are exactly right about the mushrooms. A quick google image search confirms wood ear mushrooms. Looks like another thing to be on the lookout for while at the grocery store (reminds me, I need to make another H-Mart run...).

                                            3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

                                            1. re: jforman

                                              Believe it or not, a good (and cheap) source of wood ears can be your local Ocean State Job Lot - one with a decent food section. My local Ocean State Job Lot in Quincy has small packages of dried shiitake and wood ear, and I think even small dried enoki. Since I don't use wood ear often, I thought I'd try it at only $1 or 2 a pack. The items were fine quality, and also cleaned well. Tasted great in my soup!

                                              1. re: kobuta

                                                Be careful with wood ear, as you may know, too much wood ear can cause internal bleeding

                                                1. re: barleywino

                                                  I've never really thought about it until now, but that tale reeks of urban legend.

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    professor of biology, U Wisconsin
                                                    "It has been shown to block blood clotting by obstructing the platelets. There have actually been cases of internal bleeding from particularly sensitive people who accidentally ate too much sweet and sour soup combined with stir-fry containing this fungus. "

                                                    "Another chemical extracted from the species was an acidic polysaccharide (made up of mostly mannose, glucose, glucuronic acid and xylose) which showed anticoagulant properties. The article concluded that "the polysaccharides from these mushrooms may constitute a new source of compounds with action on coagulation, platelet aggregation and, perhaps, on thrombosis".[44] Another study reported that the species may be effective in stopping platelet binding in vitro,[45] with possible uses regarding hypercholesterolemia.

                                                    sounds like some people are more susceptible to this than others...

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        just gotta go easy on that moo shu pork ;) Actually, it makes me wonder whether any similar "side effects" could come from imbibing some of those obscure bitters and herbal amaro that you see in cocktails nowadays...

                                                        1. re: barleywino

                                                          Fascinating. Been eating it all my life (not every day of course), as it shows up in a lot of Chinese dishes. So far so good!

                                                          1. re: barleywino

                                                            that would be a little bit shocking to me if that were the case (re amaro/bitters) as they have been enjoyed as a digestive aid for centuries.

                                                            Although maybe that could be the case, if moderation isn't practiced properly and/or if bottlers have cut corners with cheaper ingredients in the recipes.

                                                            1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                              looking at wikipedia at some of the common ingredients e.g. cinchona, seems like most side effects are mild,.e.g. in some cases can lead to constipation, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea, high frequency hearing loss...nothing serious ;)

                                                              1. re: barleywino

                                                                Sounds like a Rx drug commercial on TV :)

                                                        2. re: barleywino

                                                          I believe they actually have the effect of reducing blood clots, thus decreasing heart attack risk.

                                                2. re: kobuta

                                                  The mushrooms might also be cloud mushrooms. At least when I ordered the mushroom plate, there were some cloud mushrooms on the plate.

                                              2. Little Q is a great addition to the area. I love, love, love the herbal chicken broth. It's unbelievably delicious and complex. I barely need any sauce once I pull the goods out of the broth.

                                                And while I usually also get the ma la broth as the complement, I am less enthused about this broth. It lacks depth. Specifically, it's only la and no ma. True ma la broth should have stems of sichuan peppercorns floating throughout the broth itself. For some reason, Little Q only has tons of dried peppers in the broth along with other herbal goodies. I've ordered the broth three times and nary a sichuan peppercorn in sight. I keep hoping though. Regardless, it's still tasty but far below the herbal broth, in my opinion.

                                                4 Replies
                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    I don't think it works that way since the peppercorns have to be simmered with the dried hot peppers and other herbs to infuse the broth. I also think they changed the broth. On my first visit (about half a dozen visits ago), I didn't order the ma la broth. But, I did chat (in chinese) with the woman manager about ma la hot pot in general. She indicated that there were peppercorns in their although not nearly enough to make it ChengDu style. I've been digging around in their broth and there aren't ANY peppercorns to be seen. My last batch wasn't even really spicy. I'm going to have to ask her about it.

                                                    This is in no way a downhill alert. I'm thrilled that they are open in E. Arlington. Now, there is no reason for me to even make hot pot at home since this is just a hop and skip away. But, I've had hot pot in a lot of different places, including in ChengDu, China. The broth is just a delicious spicy broth that seems to be lacking the ma these days. And, that herbal chicken broth is one of the best hot pot broths I've ever tasted.

                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                      I agree with you about the lack of ma. The first time we went, right after they opened, it seemed like there was lots of ma and la in the broth, but since then, it's been some la and no ma. The last time we went, I asked for the ma la "extra spicy," and this resulted in an unholy number of chilies in the broth, and seemingly some ma in the broth. Not a lot, but some. Maybe try asking for extra spicy next time?

                                                      1. re: VintageMolly

                                                        how about just asking for extra sichuan pepper corns? When i last went about 2 months ago, the broth was just perfect.

                                                1. I threw a surprise birthday party for B this past Monday at Little Q ARL. Nine of us converged and had a great time! Everyone was pleased - the vegetarians and meat eaters alike. We started with scallion pancakes (quite different from what I'm used to - these were breaded and fried up) but delicious. There were peanuts, a couple of chicken apps, kimchee-like cabbage to tide us over. We had half mala and half black bone chicken and myriads of veggie and meat dishes. Seafood platter was meh (I think someone on this thread advised against it...I concur). Meat platters, mushroom platter, a la carte veggies, Shandong and cellophane noodles. The mala was really incredible...it's been talked up so much, I feel like a broken record. The "after effect" were worth every drop! I am still craving it.

                                                  Several apps, the soups, veggies, meat, several beers, one cold sake....and only $200 with tip. Service was helpful. It was the perfect birthday venue for good friends.

                                                  P.S. I, like yumyum previously, loved the logo. MC, I couldn't convince my friends that the little lamb was wearing shrimp barrettes. They were like, "digga, those are horns, not shrimp barrettes." How utterly boring!

                                                  1. Had lunch there recently and the prices has gone up significantly. What used to be $7.95 is now $9.95. Bugs (dead) in the bok choy. Mala Broth still excellent!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Ferrari328

                                                      Aaaack, did you have to pay extra for the bugs? ;-)

                                                      I kinda thought that with the quality of the meat they were serving those lunch prices HAD to go up...

                                                      1. re: Ferrari328

                                                        I can't tell you how confusing it is now when I hear 'bugs'. Due to the lingo of certain hounds, I now expect someone to be talking about lobsters! But my college educated brain DID figure out what you meant! (sigh,my parents would be so pleased.........)