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Gene Lee: A tale of two hot pots

Pot of Spicy and Mild Broth, Hot Pot - Buford HighwayLast week, I went to a relatively new Sichuan (also spelled Szechuan) Chinese restaurant located off of Buford Highway. It sits in the corner of a large deserted shopping center that once was home to a Value City department store. For the sake of this post I’ll call it Hot Pot as advertised on their sign outside. Although the restaurant’s take-out menu, my debit card receipt and a hidden sign out front makes references to the place calling themselves “Chong Qing Hot Pot.”

While waiting for my order, I googled the restaurant on my iPhone and unbeknownst to me there was another Sichuan restaurant of a similar hot pot name located nearby at the Chinatown food court. And for the sake of this post, I will call that place Chong Qing Hot Pot as advertised in English on their sign.

A comment at the bottom of local blogger Eat Buford Highway’s write-up caught my eye, which appeared to have been made by the wife of the owner of the restaurant in the food court.

She stated “[t]his location on Buford Hwy is not associated with the Chong Qing Hot Pot in the Chinatown Foodcourt. The stand alone Buford Hwy restaurant has been opened by the previous,old foodcourt owner, who had a rating of 64 on the health department inspection. Please do not confuse this restaurant with the [one] at the Chinatown Foodcourt. The Chinatown location is operated by Liang He, the new owner, who has a 94..

A La Carte Tofu, Veggies & Pork, Hot Pot - Buf HwyChong Qing is a metropolitan Chinese city located in the Sichuan Province with a municipal population of around 32,000,000. The city is known for tableside hot pots filled with vegetables, seafood, tofu, meat and/or offal (organs or innards of a butchered animal) cooked in mild or spicy broth. Split pots are traditionally provided if you want both broths, which I did with Hot Pot’s Spicy and Light Soup ($4.95). It comes in a large metallic pot partitioned in the middle and filled separately with each types of broth. My tray full of uncooked a la carte items ($14.05 altogether) also arrives separately, and were added to both broths after the portable burner it sat on brought it to a boil.

The next day, I decided to go check out the Chong Qing Hot Pot in the food court. The owner Lian He was behind the cash register (as was the 94 inspection rating certificate) so I asked him a few questions about both places after putting in an order for a hot pot of nefarious animal parts and Stir-Fry Lamb with Cumin ($8.50).

Chong Qing Hot Pot in the Chinatown Food CourtLian He’s tone immediately went a little sour as he seemed upset that people could confuse their businesses from each other. He confirmed that he bought the place around two years ago from the original owner—the proprietor of the new Hot Pot restaurant. Lian He also added that the original owner took his chef to the new restaurant with him (my waitress from the new Hot Pot restaurant stated this the day before too).

At the food court, I sampled an order of their Spicy Tripe Hot Pot ($8.25) which is a medium-sized pot filled with soft tripe, blood cake, cellophane noodles, vegetables and tofu. It was good, real good. My wife couldn’t stomach the off-putting odor the offal gave to the soup but the broth was tangy and easy to put down.

As far as other items I sampled at both restaurants, there are dishes that have merits and shortcomings but overall I am enjoying the food from the new Hot Pot restaurant a bit more. I like the interactivity of their hot pot (which comes at a price), but to me the spicy oil-laden broth is what slurping molten lava must be like.

Chong Qing Spicy Chicken - Chong Qing Hot Pot, Buf Hwy Food CourtThe dishes at both hot pot restaurants are very similar to the ultra-popular Tasty China in Marietta, including items like the salty and sweat-inducing Spicy Chicken with chilies ($11.95 at the stand alone, $6.85-food court) and oily Dan Dan Noodles ($6.99-stand alone, $4.95-food court). The prices at the food court generally tend to be $2-4 cheaper per dish, but the portion sizes at the stand alone on Buford Highway are larger.

Regardless, both restaurants have deep menus and are open for business, so there’s nothing stopping us from exploring both. And for the record, I haven’t seen an inspection certificate displayed at the new place yet.

Gene-Lee-Tagline– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.

8 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by GL, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Gene Lee – our man in the offal trenches – explores a tale of two hot pots. http://bit.ly/bGpKax [...]

Frank

October 27th, 2010
9:43 am

Chong Qing has been there for years as with every other food shack in there, you know this. No mention of the newer fancy hot pot place at the end of the strip mall?
Good luck with 98% of the AJC population on trying that spicy tripe hot pot which is neither spicy nor hot, but could use a lot more tripe than blood cake.

Good start though!

SP

October 27th, 2010
11:06 am

Love hot pot! I like to go to the Mini Hot Pot in near the Hoa Binh Market on Buford Hwy. The owners are super nice, it’s clean and I like to choose from the ala carte additions (dumplings and fish balls are yummy in the spicy broth). Thanks for the new hot pot location(s) to check out!

Kar

October 27th, 2010
11:19 am

Sounds like your wife has a stomach like me. I’m always willing to try new dishes but once a friend got “Midnight Delight” or tripe in deer blood at the Panda Inn. I couldn’t even be downwind of it.

James

October 27th, 2010
12:48 pm

Sounds like it’s only a matter of time before this thing turns into a reality show.

Gene Lee

October 27th, 2010
1:23 pm

@Kar – “Downwind” – Best description ever
@James – No way, I’ll leave that to Zimmern. On to find vegetables now!

A Leow

October 28th, 2010
8:39 am

Thanks for the write up. May head there this weekend when it gets cooler to slurp up some spicy goodness

Edward

October 30th, 2010
10:57 am

I second the Mini Hot Pot across from Panang on Buford Hwy. Good-sized portions, tasty, and super-friendly service and very clean and inviting. I’ve had several great meals with friends there.