Restaurant: Chun La Hao Chong Qing Hot Pot
Location: 5701 Rosemead Blvd, Temple City, CA 91780. (626) 766-1230
Date: August 5, 2019 & May 16, 2021
Cuisine: Chong Qing Hot Pot
Rating: Tied for best hot pot I’ve ever had
After Yarom and I met up in March at the awesome Shancheng Lameizi for some fiery hot pot (which blows the boring mild hot pot out of… something) we decided to drag some more people to a different new, higher end Szechuan Hot Pot place.
Chun La Hao is located in the same Temple City mall as Grand Harbor and right across the street from Bistro Na. It hails from Chong Qing, the largest city in Szechuan and well known for its brazen, no holds barred take on spice.
They have bar style munchies and tea in the waiting area.
And a modern Chinese decor much like the aforementioned Bistro Na or Shancheng. It’s more spacious than either of Shancheng’s branches.
Our table for size was still a bit tight — for us big westerners.
The menu is the usual check sheet and with an extensive list of favorites and freakish culinary bits one can boil up. Aka duck intestine, black tripe, pork aorta and the like.
The have the best “snack bar” I’ve yet seen at a hot pot. Extensive munchies.
The usual kind of peanuts and crisps.
A big assortment of pickled things like spicy cucumbers, kimchee like stuff, etc.
And more weird crispy stuff.
From my cellar: NV Pierre Péters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve. JG 91+. As is customary with this bottling from Rodolphe Péters, the wine is a blend of fifty percent of its base year of 2014 and fifty percent from last year’s blend, which had gone into the family solera of reserve wines that dates back to 1988. The vins clairs here do not entirely go through malo as fifteen percent are non-malo wines, with the range raised in a variety of vessels, including barrels, stainless steel tanks and cement vats and the wine spend two years aging sur latte. The new release is very good indeed, offering up a youthful blend of apple, pear, hazelnut, chalky minerality, incipient pastry cream and spring flowers. On the palate the wine is crisp, focused and full-bodied, with a good core, still pretty brisk acidity, frothy mousse and very good backend mineral drive on the long and nascently complex finish. This is very good today and will be even better with a couple of years in the cellar.
We ordered the maximum spicy classic Chongqing ox fat broth and a light mushroom broth for the losers.
Here it is all fired up, at the end too when the spice has taken over some of the wuss side.
Chun La Hao also has a big sauce bar. Bigger perhaps than HDL but a bit smaller than SL.
A slightly better view. There are all the classics here and more, plenty to make a great sauce. They lack a few of the weird (and delicious) fermented options at SL, but otherwise it’s pretty complete. All the base components are here. Spices, sesame oil and paste, soy sauces, vinegars, etc.
This is my “mild” (not really) vegetable sauce with a soy vinegar garlic base.
And my fiery sesame flame garlic “meat” sauce.
The presentation is cute. A red army truck brings the Veggie Combo Platter of various greens.
Oddly, no cabbage in the combo, so we ordered some.
Lotus root provides a nice crunch.
Lately I’ve taken to Square Bamboo Shoot as a source of great texture and fiber.
Mushroom Combo Platter serves up even more fiber.
The tofu combo platter brings handmade tofu, black tofu (which was kinda gross), fried beancurd and others.
Fish Filet was marinated. It looked pretty, but was filled with bones.
Cuttlefish dumplings look like sticks of wax, but cook up to be delectable chewy sticks with a hint of seafood.
Raw beef with egg (you coat it in the egg and cook it).
Pig butt. Yup.
Luncheon Pork is one of my favorites and I got two orders. Basically spam, this stuff is soft and delicious.
Mini Sausage are fun.
Pork Meatballs were clearly house-made and the best I’ve had. Really tasty.
Fatty Beef. Delicious.
Beef Brisket. Moderately leaner.
Beef belly is also fatty and delicious.
Lamb shoulder was delicious. Too bad under all that spice one can barely tell the meats apart :-).
Probably also lamb shoulder or some other lamb cut.
Beef Tendon isn’t a white boy favorite, and is very gelatinous when cooked up, but tastes amazing (if you can handle the texture).
Pork is good too and needs to be cooked a bit longer.
It’s a bit crowded at the table and the uncooked food is on shelves at the edge of our alcove, a bit hard to get at.
Sure makes a big mess.
Check out the congealing spicy ox fat after it’s had a chance to cool down!
They have a funny timing game you can play once per table to “earn” a discount too.
Overall, service was great. Decor is good. Snack bar is best in class. Sauce bar is an A-, but still great. Plating is the best I’ve seen at hot pot and the flavor was spectacular. If you can handle spicy hot pot, this is one of THE places to go. Seriously it’s as good as a similar place in Chengdu or Chongqing!
It should be noted that only 2 of the six of us (Yarom and I) were brave enough to eat from the spicy side. I ate entirely spicy, consequences be damned! It’s well worth it, but part of the experience is the catharsis and adrenaline rush. Expect coughing in reaction to the toxic fumes and insanely great heat. Some intestinal distress is nearly guaranteed.
Afterward, to cool down, we went across the street to Meet Fresh.
Counter order Asian Shave Ice place.
Very nice decor.
Shave ice with various beans and taro pudding and the like.
Super mango shave ice with sweetened milk and ice cream. Yum Yum! Plus some milk teas and the like.