Food & Drink

New concept for Fresno — hot pot Asian restaurant to open in familiar River Park space

A delivery man pushes a stack of boxes past the former World Sports Cafe space at River Park shopping center in January 2017. JPot, a hot pot Asian restaurant, will be one of two restaurants moving into the space.
A delivery man pushes a stack of boxes past the former World Sports Cafe space at River Park shopping center in January 2017. JPot, a hot pot Asian restaurant, will be one of two restaurants moving into the space. sflores@fresnobee.com

A hot pot Asian restaurant — specializing in dishes where meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked in broth — will be one of two new restaurants moving into retail space formerly occupied by World Sports Cafe in north Fresno’s River Park shopping center.

The restaurant, to be called JPot, is expected to open around February.

“It’s in a lot of Asian countries,” said its owner, Jason Lin, of hot pot cooking. “It can be simple but at the same time, it’s really filling and really comforting food to eat, and it’s good for gatherings of friends and families.”

Lin said the restaurant will be the first of its kind in Fresno.

JPot will have 12 different hot pots to choose from, prepared in a hot-pot style based on the Taiwanese “xiao huo guo,” which translates to “small fire pot.” The dishes are personal, mini hot pots, instead of large dishes that are usually shared.

Each will feature different flavors, prepared with fresh ingredients and flavors commonly found in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Thai hot pots.

It’s owned by J-Lin’s Restaurant Inc., a company based in Fresno that’s owned by Lin’s family. The company owns four Fresno restaurants, including Hino Oishi at Campus Pointe, which opened in 2016; Dai Bai Dang, purchased in May from its former owner upon her retirement; and Lin’s Fusion, which was opened more than 15 years ago by Lin’s parents, Chang Hua Jiang and Chang Fei Lin.

Lin and his brothers took over its operation after their parents retired.

The high-profile former World Sports Cafe location, near Edwards Fresno Stadium 22 & IMAX movie theater, has been vacant since the restaurant and bar closed in January 2014. It’s been parceled into two spaces, including a 5,000-square-foot area that JPot will move into.

Another restaurant will be moving into the other space, but its owner isn’t yet ready to make an announcement, said Tracy Kashian, vice president of marketing and pubic relations for Lance-Kashian & Co., the property management company for River Park.

Kashian did say, however, that it will be another new food concept for Fresno and “that’s exciting for me.”

Lin said JPot will have a modern, inviting and innovative style. The restaurant will have a bar that sells boba tea, along with alcohol.

The food will include yakitori meat skewers and a couple “dry pot” dishes, similar to stir fry, but most of the food is cooked in broth.

“And when it comes to hot pot or ramen or soup, it all comes down to the broth,” Lin said. “All our broth is homemade with beef bone and chicken that we simmer for over 12 hours.”

Some of the more unique vegetable options, Lin said, include enoki mushrooms, taro, lotus and a “stinky tofu.” There will be vegan and vegetarian dishes. As for the meat, there are also things like pork feet to try beyond regular pork, beef and lamb.

Lin learned much of what he knows from his parents, who came to the U.S. from China when he was 6 years old. He attended Fort Miller Middle School and Bullard High School in Fresno before moving to the Indianapolis area, where his uncle lives, to open a couple restaurants. One was sold, and another, Hino Oishi, is still in operation there.

He returned to the area to be closer to the rest of his immediate family. Lin now lives in Clovis with his wife and two young children.

He’s enjoyed running the restaurants in Fresno and is looking forward to starting JPot. He said hot pot restaurants are growing in popularity.

“I love to cook,” Lin said. “That’s why I like what I do. So I just want to bring — not only to Fresno and the Central Valley, but to myself and my family — something different to eat, and more traditional Chinese-type of food.”

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Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge
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