Canal between Chrystie & Forsyth (Chinatown, NYC)
Alexis: For Laurea's early birthday we went to Grand Sichuan International in Chinatown for some body-warming hot pot. I have not had this since I was in San Francisco about five years ago. There is a spot in the Sunset that is all you can eat hot pot. They provide the broth and then you get up and get your meats, veggies and sauces at the buffet. It is awesome.
At Grand Sichuan we were seated downstairs in their private room, which looked like it was set up in someone's bedroom/living room/studio apartment. There was a bed and some cabinets. OKAY! We ordered hotpots with "two flavors." That is, one side with regular chicken broth and the other side teeming with scary red hot peppers.
The hotpot menu is pretty extensive and we started out with pickled cabbage, beef tendons, wheat noodles, scallops, fish balls, bokchoy, black Chinese mushrooms (rehydrated, I might add, for that extra sliminess), lamb, beef, dumplings... As well as a couple of sauces.
Most Westerners when eating Asian foods expect to only order for themselves. They'll order a plate of lo mein or fried rice and that's all they eat. NO NO NO NO NO!! Asian food, especially Chinese food, is meant to be eaten communally. Try eating a traditional 8-course Chinese banquet and you'll see! This is why all tables have lazy Susans, so you can share everything!!
That said, I think people were a little freaked out about putting their food into the pot with everyone else's. But that is how it's done. All the different flavors will meld together in the pot and create a richer and richer broth as the night progresses. This definitely isn't for picky or squeamish eaters. Lots of elbow jostling and double dipping - it was a really fun time.
Afterwards we went on a hunt for a big and chill enough bar to accommodate our large party and after several tries we ended up at Whiskey Ward, which was great.
I'm already craving more hotpot!