7 Of LA's Best Hot Pots That'll Warm You From The Inside Out
Put away the flip-flops and dust off the fleece, the temperature has dipped below 68 degrees so you can officially say, "It's freezing here in Los Angeles!" What goes great with cold weather? A nourishing hot pot.
Cooking food in boiling water is an age old practice that has evolved into an amazingly versatile meal. Southern California has everything you might want in a hot pot, from shabu shabu, which comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia "swish swish," to an extravagant Sichuan banquet to an ultra spicy experimental concoction topped with melted cheese.
If you want to splurge on the quintessential Japanese shabu shabu meal, KaGaYa serves hot pot in its purest form. The beautiful clear broth does nothing to distract from the marbled wagyu beef and after it has been cooked, the chef turns the broth into a base for thick udon noodles. Aside from beef and seafood, the minimal menu consists of a couple of appetizers that vary by season — you might find a bluefin tuna amuse-bouche or housemade pickled radishes — and dessert. You'd be a fool not to finish the meal with a hot iron-pressed creme brûlée.
418 E. 2nd St., downtown L.A. 213-617-1016
HaiDiLao is a high-end chain from mainland China specializing in Sichuan-style spicy hot pot. When the restaurant decided to expand abroad, it came to the San Gabriel Valley first, specifically to the Westfield Mall in Arcadia. As soon as you sit down, you get an apron, a hair tie and an iPad so you can order your soup base and ingredients. HaiDiLao's signature soup hits all the flavor notes of Sichuan cuisine: peppery, oily, fiery. Order the beef tallow pot, a more intense version of the signature soup, and the spice level will make you sweat bullets. Milder alternatives, such as a vegetarian mushroom pot and a pork bone pot, are also available. After feasting on thinly sliced Angus beef, mushrooms and other veggies, order the "dancing noodles" and enjoy the performance as dough masters pull and swing your noodles in an elaborate ribbon dance.
400 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. 626-445-7232
2710 Alton Pkwy #215, Irvine. 949- 566-1766
With more than 300 locations from China to Dubai, the franchise that started in the late 1990s in inner Mongolia is a hot pot pioneer, popularizing the dish around the world. Little Sheep's Mongolian-style hot pot is lamb-centric and served with paper thin meat. The signature soup is a bone broth with copious amounts of ginger, dates, goji berries, cloves and cumin seeds. Creamy (but non-dairy) and lightly medicinal, it's a departure from the traditional Sichuan spicy hot pot or the simple shabu shabu. If you have trouble choosing between spicy and creamy, the restaurant offers a divided pot that lets you get both. Many of the SoCal locations offer lunch-specials and all-you-can-eat options; check with individual restaurants.
45 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena. 626-229-0888
140 W. Valley Blvd., Suite 213, San Gabriel. 626 -307-1901
15361 Culver Drive, Irvine. 949-651-0201
2575 Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance. 310-517-9605
This quiet, more upscale restaurant serves traditional Japanese shabu shabu. The menu is small and features high-quality organic meat and produce. Whether you choose a small, medium or large order, you get a plate heaped with leafy greens, assorted mushrooms and vegetables such as kabocha squash, snap peas and okra. You've got plenty of condiments to flavor your bubbling broth including sesame oil, yuzu, fresh ginger, chopped onions, hot sauce and ponzu. The housemade sesame sauce that comes with your rice is the best. If you come with a group (or a small, fussy child), skip the bar in the front of the restaurant and reserve one of the tables in the back.
2000 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. 310-478-8979
Tokyo Shabu Shabu
Tokyo Shabu Shabu is an L.A.-based mini-chain run by husband and wife team Darren and Patricia Ooi, who traveled around Southeast Asia searching for hot pot inspiration. Their restaurant offers the classic Japanese hot pot, an elegant water broth with a slice of kombu (dried kelp), but the menu goes far beyond that. They also serve Thai curry, creamy pork miso, Korean-inspired spicy kimchi and tangy tomato hot pots. Load up your pot with their ponzu (citrus soy sauce), garlic, scallions and housemade goma (roasted sesame sauce) before you dunk your meat and veggies. The restaurant also has a great happy hour with Japanese beer and sake.
345 S. Lake Ave., Suite 101, Pasadena. 626-844-7355
1330 S. Fullerton Road, #108, Rowland Heights. 626-810-6037
141 N. Atlantic Blvd, Suite 100B, Monterey Park. 626-282-6795
Born here in the San Gabriel Valley, Boiling Point is known for its unique flavor combos and copious add-ons. The house special is a stinky tofu pot, a pungent fermented bean curd that many eaters have grown to embrace. If you want something less odiferous, try a Taiwanese spicy pot with instant ramen, a Japanese miso pot with seafood udon or a vegan pot with loads of greens. Feeling adventurous? Add some melted cheddar to your pickled lamb pot or blood tofu to your pomelo pot. The dipping sauces are also outside the box. Instead of the traditional sesame blend and citrus soy sauce, Boiling Point offers a housemade, intensely garlic-y soybean paste that adds dimension to any soup.
206 S. First Ave., Arcadia 626-461-6688
13089 Peyton Dr., Chino Hills. 909-591-7888
2020 Hacienda Blvd. #E., Hacienda Heights. 626-369-0928
250 W. Valley Blvd. #J, San Gabriel 626-300-9800
18 W. Green Ave., Pasadena. 626-219-6935
Earth Kitchen is the Chipotle of hot pots, a fast-casual Alhambra restaurant that lets you experience "hot pot lite." You go down the line, selecting ingredients to create your pot as employees assemble it for you. Choose your meat(s) along with broccoli, corn, bean sprouts and more arcane add-ons such as wood ear mushrooms, pork intestines, shrimp balls and blood tofu. Be conservative. Be experimental. The hot pot-ssibilities are endless.
235 W. Main St., Unit B, Alhambra. 626-766-1517