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Hot Pot recommendation

Hi all-I've been feverishly reading all the hot pot/dumplings in Flushing reviews in preparation for my trip this weekend. But, I have special needs so I thought I'd ask my specific question.

We eat meat occasionally but I am super wussy about it (obviously we are going to already be eating a lot on Sunday in Flushing when we taste a million dumplings). I really want to try to squeeze in a hot pot dinner at the end of the day since I love super spicy broth and there really aren't any hot pot places in NC (even though we have almost everything else at this point).

So...the question. If you were delicate about meat (not going to eat any balls or tendons) and don't speak any Chinese (and so run the risk of getting mystery meats) - where would you go? Like...a hot pot with training wheels? It can be in Flushing or Manhattan, we are staying on the edge of Chinatown.

Thanks in advance for your help (and for not making fun of my meat eating preferences!)

Naomi

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  1. Baidu is my favorite hot pot restaurant in Flushing, impeccable ingredients, and great broths and contemporary ambiance. I'm not sure how much English the staff speaks but the menu has English and you can point to what you want.

    You have a choice of very spicy broth as well as easily identifiable cuts and types of meat. E.g. prime rib from cow.

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    Mapo Szechuan
    37-04 Prince St, Queens, NY 11354

    6 Replies
      1. re: Pookipichu

        Thanks for the tips, everyone. Baidu sounds perfect.

        1. re: Pookipichu

          Do you have a manhattan hot pot recommendation? The super cold weather this weekend might make a 2 hour lunch just what we need...thanks!

          1. re: emmeya

            Szechuan Gourmet is probably the best choice. I haven't been back in 2 years (too many restaurants in this city), but it was excellent when I went.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              We ended up eating at Szechuan Gourmet on Saturday afternoon (which was good because there was NO way we could have done hot pot after gorging in Flushing on Sunday!) and we all really liked it. It was AYCE for $32 which maybe was a little high but whatever. We got lamb, beef, pork (ham...did not like!), tofu, bok choy, lotus root, several kinds of mushrooms, broccoli, mung bean sprouts, cellophane noodles, shrimp, crab. Did the spicy broth and the herbal broth, it came with a dark sauce and a light sauce (would have liked to make my own sauce like at Baidu, but next time maybe...). The only thing was that it took FOREVER for anything to come out and FOREVER X TWO for the meat to come out. We suspected they weren't really prepared for lunchtime hotpot...but in the end it was worth the wait. There wasn't a single thing that didn't seem extremely fresh (well, who could really tell about those little squares of ham?).

              At the end of the meal the guy asked us if we had done hot pot before and I said no and that only one of my friends that was with us had, and he said I seemed like the "expert" which is probably polite for "glutton." Thanks for preparing me well!

              Naomi

              1. re: emmeya

                Yay, successful meal! Mission accomplished, now for your next mission... :)

        2. Baidu is good but the staff is somewhere between unhelpful and downright rude. If you don't mind a little journey, the super spicy broth at Little Pepper in College Point is excellent, and the staff is much friendlier.

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          Little Pepper
          18-24 College Point Blvd, Queens, NY 11356

          9 Replies
          1. re: Peter Cuce

            I've seen this complaint before, but I've never experienced it myself. But then again, I go there so much, they know me now and treat me very well.

            1. re: ForestHillsFresser

              I haven't had an issue with service either, I have noticed that some of the servers are shy/young and perhaps if they are dealing with an English speaking customer, even more so?

              1. re: Pookipichu

                I've been to Baidu/Mapo Szechuan often enough to have seen the staff on a number of different occasions (but not enough so that they recognize me). I have not seen rude service, merely hurried and/or unhelpful staff. I shouldn't think that this would be a problem going on a Sunday night. I also think that Pookipichu makes a good point with how shy the service can be if they are dealing with an English-speaking customer since I don't think most of the staff are comfortable with their English abilities.

                I do have two cautions, however: 1) the mala broth is NOT super-spicy in comparison with stuff I've had overseas - maybe a mild-to-medium (my American friends find it uncomfortably hot, however) spice level, but still, flavorful, and 2) if your hot pot meal is coming at the end of an all-day feast in Flushing, you will probably enjoy ordering as you go, and not do the AYCE hot pot, as it is not a good value when you are not that hungry. (Personal experience: fail.) There are also more options available when you order off the regular menu, although they are frequently out/didn't stock menu items (certain items like dumplings, tofu products, vegetables, and meats come to mind). I would say that most of their meat options are pretty mainstream and well-labeled in English. Also, don't forget that they have complimentary rice near the sauce buffet and you will probably want to make yourself some dipping sauce for your food (sorry if this is too much advice, I'm not sure how new you are to hot pot). Best of luck!

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                Mapo Szechuan
                37-04 Prince St, Queens, NY 11354

                1. re: mookleknuck

                  I've never had any problem with the service here, though my interaction up the stairs in the restaurant portion is usually limited to checking boxes for ingredients and waving the kids down for another round of beers. I would expect any problems to stem from a langauge barrier or their relative youth, but I've had one guy very happily fish a giant crab out of a tank for us to inspect.

                  I've actually had quite memorable service from the girls out front, who seem to remember me when I go in. The Nepalese girl even gave me a bite of her Nepalese takeout one time. The mananger out front with the *ahem* "enhancements" can be a bit stern but seems to warm up when you get her talking.

                  Anyway, agree with mookleknuck that the spicy broth could be spicier, and that's from totally American (and in some cases Canadian) palettes. I wonder if they'd be receptive to upping the spice level upon request. Anyone had success with this? Or know a spicer option nearby? Little Pepper is too far for me now, but I loved it in its old location. That definitely gave me head sweats.

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                  Mapo Szechuan
                  37-04 Prince St, Queens, NY 11354

                  1. re: Mr Porkchop

                    If you ask them to make it extra "ma la" they will do so.

                    1. re: ForestHillsFresser

                      Oh. Extra 'ma la.' That's definitely us.

            2. re: Peter Cuce

              Peter Cuce, I've been meaning to try Little Pepper's hot pot as I know it's one of their house specials. Could you tell me how they do theirs, ie, what ingredients are available, how varied are the ingredients, can you get duck blood there (I think they'd said they carry that), what sauces do they provide (buffet or a la carte)? Any details would be appreciated as I would like to take my brother here for his birthday next month!

              1. re: mookleknuck

                Here's a write-up by Joe DiStefano of a meal I happened to be at: http://www.ediblecommunities.com/quee...

                And here's a photo of the menu. I was lucky to have a Mandarin-reading friend along, but the chef at Little Pepper has pretty good English. http://www.flickr.com/photos/536/6503...

                They don't have a sauce station per se, since it's primarily a restaurant that happens to serve hotpot.

                1. re: Peter Cuce

                  Thanks for that prompt reply, Peter Cuce. I especially appreciate being able to see their hot pot ordering slip! Also, thanks for linking that write-up.

                  I'll make that special trip out there yet!

                  (Sorry to make this point since you've been so helpful, but people read Chinese. They speak Mandarin/Cantonese/Hakka/Toishanese/etc. Many speakers in the States can't read any Chinese, so it's good to have someone who can with you - or just ask the staff!)

            3. Anyone know where to go for good Taiwanese-style hot pot? Thanks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: CitySpoonful

                Baidu is Taiwanese-style hot pot. =) I never saw tableside TVs in Taiwan, but overall, it's a humbler pared-down version of some of the slicker stores/chains in Taipei. Quality of broth and ingredients and variety of ingredients aren't the same as overseas either, but it's pretty good from what I've found in the Northeast.

                I'm still looking though, so if you have any recommendations, please share!

              2. sorry im a little late replying to this, but i agree with others that i would definitely do baidu / mapo szechuan, that is the best hot pot ive had in NY so far. I'd recommend getting the duck broth, i think that is the best one
                http://www.lauhound.com/2011/01/baidu...