Taste

[The Spectacle Circuit]

Give in to the tasty upgrades at Chubby Cattle

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Chubby Cattle’s Heaven and Hell hot pot is also known as the Yin-Yang.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore
Andy Wang

Deni might be the best upseller I’ve ever encountered, a man who could teach the boys of Glengarry Glen Ross a few things about how to close.

Our waiter at Chubby Cattle on a recent Saturday night is crushing it. My friends and I are a little annoyed that the restaurant isn’t selling alcohol. But Deni, with his hair pulled back and the swagger of a fella who’s been here before, somehow convinces me that the fresh juices are what I really want. So I order a watermelon juice and then a mango juice, and damn, they’re good.

We’ve already ordered a lot of food at this new Mongolian hot pot restaurant in Chinatown, and we’re grabbing add-ons off the conveyor belt, but Deni swoops in to convince us we need more. He must have noticed that my dining companions seem more immune to his powers, so I’m his mark.

I don’t find Deni especially pushy, honestly. He just keeps repeating that the special grilled oysters are only $1.99 each, like, Yo, you’re stealing from the restaurant. I’m doing you a favor, so just order them before the kitchen changes its mind. I order four. Deni is so happy, so appreciative, so effusive when he thanks me for my smart and completely correct oyster order that of course he then gets me to order a couple of lamb skewers, even though nobody else at the table seems excited about lamb skewers.

When the skewers show up at the table, I start thinking that maybe I’ve been had. The skewers are so much larger than I expected, maybe eight ounces each, big enough to club Deni with and cause serious damage if things take a wrong turn. But I eat the garlicky oysters and then enjoy the meatiness and fattiness of the cumin-dusted lamb. I’m happy even though I’m worried that I’m going to end up paying something like $26 a skewer when the bill comes.

When the bill comes, I’m ashamed of myself for ever doubting Deni. The skewers are $4.99 each, and I really do start feeling like I’m stealing from the restaurant, and I want to hug Deni, but think that would be weird. Once I’m outside, I realize Deni would probably have loved that hug, because Deni knows he’s a boss who deserves a hug. (Check the Chubby Cattle Yelp reviews that mention him by name.) The price for our ball-out feast for four isn’t even $30 a person. Bless you, Deni. I won’t forget you soon, partially because my clothes still smell like meat and cumin days later.

Chubby Cattle is kind of a ridiculous restaurant, but it’s also kind of awesome. The soup bases come with names like “Entry-Level Hell.” The free-for-all that is the sauce bar gives newbies the option of mixing peanut butter with sha cha and sambal and soy and garlic and sesame oil. The meats ($18.99 for a generous beef combo that includes thinly sliced ribeye) and seafood ($19.99 for a combo platter with clams, shrimp, scallops and more) are worthy values.

Chubby Cattle is, we’re told, the world’s only restaurant with a refrigerated conveyor belt for hot pot ingredients. It bills itself as a $1 million restaurant, which sounds kind of badass but isn’t exactly crazy when it comes to building out a 3,600-square-foot, 160-seat space. Deni might have to sell a lot of lamb skewers to help his owners recoup their investment. I have no doubt he’s up for the task.

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