Making the switch from meat to a plant-based option at Hope Tree hotpot was a new choice for curious diner Audrey Jiang:
"Before I always had beef meatballs (when eating hot pot). For this (plant-based meatball) actually you can tell that it isn't meat. But the feel of it in your mouth is very similar to beef (meatballs). And I guess that plant-based protein is a little healthier than beef."
The non-meat meatballs are from a company named Zhenmeat, which also makes plant-based dumplings and even crayfish.
It's part of a small but growing group of Chinese companies, with their own answers to big names like Beyond Meat or Impossible.
And in the wake of the global health crisis and the country's own struggle with African swine fever vegetarian alternatives to meat have gained ground in China.
Overseas rivals want in on that, too. Last week, Beyond Meat said it had signed a deal to open a production facility near Shanghai and it's launched a team-up with Starbucks to serve up plant-based food in China.
But Zhenmeat CEO Vince Lu has a much wider vision for the future of his meatballs.
"Our true competitors are not those global giants who have already achieved great success such as 'Beyond Meat' or 'Impossible Foods'. Our true competitor is the whole livestock sector. It's the animal protein industry. So we think it's a game of making the cake (market) bigger (for all)."
Some of the Hope Tree customers trying Zhenmeat's protein made from a base of pea and soy, said it felt like beef, but tasted like tofu.
And taste is key to the future of plant-based meats says China market research group director, Ben Cavender:
"So I think when we interview consumers the vast majority say they're open to trying these products once. But the big question is how much do they like it? Do they see how they can fit it into their diet on a daily basis, whether that's cooking at home or at restaurants?"