If you've ever had a hot pot, then you know it's as much about the show as it is the rich, flavorful, and totally unique culinary experience. This Chinese classic is served in clay pots, metal pots, and even big metal bowls, but no matter what kind of pot, it must be sizzling-hot. That way, when the hot pot reaches your table, it's simmering and bubbling for you. Uncover the pot and take a whiff of amazing Chinese fare that's somewhere between a soup and an entrée.
In This Corner: Miu's Cuisine
The Setup: This little joint on the border of Tempe in Mesa on Apache Boulevard is an enter-through-the-back kind of place. Intimidating at first, but the friendly, welcoming staff will quickly quell all of your concerns. The dining room is modest and simple. It's not all about the pizzazz -- that is, until the food comes out.
The Good: For about $20, you will get an overwhelming amount of food. We're pretty sure it could easily feed five adventurous diners, maybe more. Why must the diners be adventurous? Well, the insanely spicy broth holds some veggies, beef, fish, pork, and tripe. The flavor is strong and unlike any dish we've had before. This is the kind of dish you down for street cred. If tripe scares you, don't worry. The chef let us know that they use minimal amounts of tripe because it's high in cholesterol. Good lookin' out, buddy!
The Bad: This dish is spicy. We love spicy, but the chef literally walked out half in shock that we weren't pushing our plates away in mouth-burning horror. The pork also has a very interesting texture and we weren't exactly sure which part of the pig it came from. Plus, the portion is way too large for one person to ever conceivably eat.
In The Other Corner: New Hong Kong
The Setup: New Hong Kong is not going to be for everyone. By that we mean, don't be a snob. New Hong Kong is a little run down, as is the clientele frequenting the Americanized buffet. Ignore that. If you do, you're in for an authentic Chinese culinary experience that's pretty rare around these parts. Plus, if you've got a thing for kitschy vintage signage, the original Hong Kong restaurant sign will knock your socks off.
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The Good: Sometimes our quest for new and different things to eat leads us far astray. Luckily, when, out of all of the other more typical options, we selected the sea cucumber and scallop hot pot, we were pleasantly surprised. Brought to the table in a simmering clay pot, the lid, when opened, let a burst of great smells waft through the air as the soup-like dish bubbled inside. The sea cucumber and scallop paired well in flavor and were pretty much perfectly cooked.
The Bad: Oddly enough, out of all the "weird" ingredients in this hot pot, the mushrooms had the most difficult texture to stomach. Our funghi were definitely on the slimy side and did not stand out in a good way.
And the winner is . . . New Hong Kong. The heat of Miu's hot pot verged on unbearable and definitely is not for most. New Hong Kong offers many more options and their clay pot presentation is way cuter than Miu's large metal mixing bowl. Plus, we like to have the option to order a hot pot solo, and you just can't do that at Miu's.