The San Gabriel Valley is in the midst of a sea change, and the ever-growing presence of Sichuan- and Chongqing-style hot pot restaurants populating the region is the clearest sign. The hottest dining experience in China is now taking over in L.A.’s biggest Chinese communities. The future of SGV dining looks a lot like the mainland’s present. These are the five international hot pot chains pointing the way.
Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot
In 1994, an audition was held at a London dance studio for the creation of a soon-to-be iconic all-female pop music group, but it was one year earlier, in Beijing, when the first Spice Girl was born. Shancheng Lameizi (Lameizi translates to “Spicy Girl” in Chinese, a term of endearment for a woman who likes her food hot) is an international Chongqing-style hot pot chain that sunk its roots into San Gabriel in 2017 and has been a popular destination ever since. There are only two soup options: spicy or non-spicy. Doing half and half is technically possible, but a photo on the menu depicts the restaurant’s only true option: one vat of the spicy stock, divided into nine compartments for individualized cooking. Enter the chambers.
1530 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 766-1700, shanchenglameizi.com
Chun La Hao Chongqing Hot Pot
Inside the perpetually busy Elm Center strip mall in Temple City sits Chun La Hao Chongqing Hot Pot, one of the buzzy newcomers to the SGV’s hot pot scene in 2019. The heat levels here plumb hellish depths, so order with caution and glee. Duck intestine, an essential add-on in any Sichuan- or Chongqing-style hot pot, is draped on a sort of miniaturized wooden swing set, like rose-colored ribbons (or earthworms, depending on your vantage) suspended in air. For the bold, try the black tofu, a fermented delicacy with a beguiling flavor profile that may be reminiscent of your shower’s limescale deposits.
5701 Rosemead Blvd., Temple City, (626) 766-1230
Xiao Long Kan Chinese Hot Pot
Xiao Long Kan is lined with art and furniture meant to reflect the pomp of Sichuan antiquity, but the true centerpieces at this Sichuan hot pot titan out of Chengdu are its famed soup bases. Its classic spicy soup base, with spice-infused beef tallow, might be the most balanced, umami-rich version in Los Angeles. Toothpick beef is on the menu here, a nod to the restaurateurs at Chengdu Taste (whose toothpick lamb has become an SGV staple), who helped bring the industrious hot pot chain to the U.S.
46 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 515-6888, xiaolongkan.com
Da Long Yi Hot Pot
Da Long Yi is yet another Chengdu-based chain that has popped up in major U.S. markets in 2019. Here in L.A., a look at its decor suggests it’s decidedly less self-serious than its competition: Ascend to the second floor of the Life Center Plaza in San Gabriel to be greeted by a cartoon panda offering refreshments. The restaurant’s list of add-ons is extensive, but the house mashed shrimp is among its best offerings.
250 W. Valley Blvd., Suite L, San Gabriel, (626) 872-6690
HaiDiLao Hot Pot
The most popular hot pot chain in the world, with its famed tableside noodle dancers, remains a stronghold in the San Gabriel Valley’s hot pot scene, even as it finds itself sharing more and more space with fellow prestige brands looking to gain from the boom in mainland Chinese investments in L.A. For more on HaiDiLao’s allure, read Jonathan Gold’s 2014 review.
400 S. Baldwin Ave., Suite 2015, Arcadia, (626) 445-7232