On to the main event. Another hot-pot refinement here is the use of induction heaters. They are less obtrusive in other parts of the meal, but they put out serious heat, and by starting with hot broth that has already been composed (allegedly with six hours of simmering for the black-bone chicken), you are ready to start cooking in minutes. Possibly because the platters are assembled to order, they come out at intervals, which makes for more mindful eating, although seafood after beef and lamb have flavored the broth may be controversial. There are 12 broth options. The Q became famous for a spicy mala broth ($5), which perks up vegetables and seafood sausage, but should be paired with something blander. We also tried the black-bone chicken broth ($3), which includes a chunk of the Asian-breed chicken with blue-black skin, flesh, and bones, thought to be ideal for soup stock. From the start, the mala broth had the flavor of pork-chicken "superior stock," as well as spices, cilantro, and lots of hot chili in both the oil on top and the gray broth beneath. The chicken stock really tastes like chicken, with herbal and floral notes from a variety of dried roots and berries. The default broth, beef, is free.
For beginners, there are full-gamut assemblies, where you pick a dominant protein ($12–$19) and get a choice of noodle and a platter of vegetables. But as with buffets, Nadeau's Law here is to pick a few things you really want. That means I am always going to have Chinese broccoli ($3). And shiitake mushrooms ($4), although for reviewing purposes we had the mushroom platter ($6), which also included enoki, supermarket-standard buttons, oyster mushrooms, and delicate slices of eryngium "king trumpet" mushrooms, served like abalone. Mushrooms are slow cookers in this method (paper-thin slices of meat are done in half a minute) and they float, so folks will fight over the two shiitake and two buttons on the platter. We also had a chance to get small portions of both udon noodles ($2; $4/large), and cellophane noodles ($1; $2). Next time we will go with udon, which are easier to locate and recover in pots of broth.
First out was our platter of beef and lamb ($9), both rolled neatly and impossible to distinguish until cooked, either spicy or rich. We then got our vegetables (napa cabbage at $3 is a good foil for hot-pot broth), then mushrooms, then a seafood platter ($10) of sushi-quality sliced flounder (my favorite), raw shrimp, New Zealand mussels, mahogany clams in the shell, three pieces of sea scallop, some squid, two slices of salmon, two bland slices of white fish loaf, and two orange slices of a fishier fish sausage, which was excellent done in the mala broth.
Q has a full bar, but it's hard to get past draft Harpoon IPA ($6), now rather amber with plenty of hops and more malt than I recall. A mai tai ($9) leaned interestingly more to pineapple than orange, but unfortunately away from the mixed rums. Sangria ($9) is based on a fusion of merlot and Japanese plum wine, but is surprisingly dry on the palate.