October 28, 2010 | 10:21am
After flirting with the idea for a few years, Sens chef-owner Johnny Chu is finally opening an authentic Asian hot pot/shabu-shabu restaurant, called Tien Wong.
Never had this cuisine before? Imagine platters of raw ingredients that you dunk into a bubbling pot of broth until they're cooked to your liking (in Japanese, "shabu-shabu" is the swishing sound you get). It's leisurely and social, good for groups of friends and family.
Chu is revamping the Chandler space that used to be Citrus Cafe,
which has been sitting vacant for the last year and a half.
Considering how he's a downtown pioneer who opened Fate (which used to be in the spot that now houses Bliss) before light rail and CityScape and ASU Downtown existed, why is Chu heading to the East Valley for this new endeavor?
Well, it's more affordable out there, he explains, and there's a huge Asian population to support the business. If Tien Wong is successful, his goal is to open a second one in Downtown Phoenix.
Hot pot dining is popular in Los Angeles, but it hardly exists in the Valley. Chu hopes to change that by offering authentic, affordable eats that are priced a la carte, sort of like dim sum. Here, you'll be able to customize your meal with add-ins that run from $2 to $6, including platters of raw seafood, premium meat (ribeye, wagyu), tofu, vegetables, housemade spinach and duck egg noodles, housemade fish paste, an assortment of vegetables, and a slew of exotic mushrooms, from beech to black ear and lobster. Prices will average about $30 for two people.
Chu will have four signature broths to please a variety of palates: Taiwanese, a numbing hot ("mala") concoction with Asian herbs and ginseng; Hong Kong-style, made with pork stock and herbs; Shabu-Shabu, a Japanese-inspired daikon and miso base; and the Yin-Yang, with creamy pork broth and lotus seeds in one half of the bowl, and spicy, garlic-and-ginseng broth in the other.
Tien Wong will open the first week of December, and will be open daily from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 2330 N. Alma School, #118 (between Warner and Elliott).