Thanks to a tip on another thread, I had dinner at Hot Pot House tonight. It's across the street from Spices 3, and owned by the same people (neither is affiliated with Spices 1 or 2 in SF). The chef is from Sichuan Province, and they're trying to make the menu as non-overlapping as possible from that of Spices 3. Currently, they only have a hot pot menu but they'll soon have other items as well.
There were about a dozen different pre-set hot pot combinations in a small ($8.95) or large size. If you want to build your own, broth by itself is $7.50 and there's an entire menu page devoted to add- ons which range in price from $0.50 to $6.50.
I got the "Numbing Spicy Flavor" base and the pre-set option which contained fried pig skin, fish cake, shrimp, broccoli, tofu skin, enoki mushrooms, carrots, tofu, and cabbage. The tofu had been frozen, which gave it a spongy texture akin to gluten. Great stuff for absorbing broth. I asked for it spicy, and it was spiced at a level where I could appreciate the full flavor of the broth. The dipping sauce was absolutely delicious, especially with the broccoli. A nice deal too--- it was only $8.95 and I have a decent amount of leftovers.
The servers were very friendly and informative. Even though they didn't have the non-hot-pot menu ready, they let me order some Dan Dan Noodles to go. Compared to other "Dan Dan" Noodles I've eaten, the noodles are squarish and thin (not housemade) and they're not the kind that has detectable levels of sesame or peanut butter. I only had a forkful, but I was very pleased.
The space is more roomy than that of Spices 3, and it looked like there was a 2nd level.
One interesting experience to note for Chowhounds who are typically profiled at restaurants serving spicy food. Spices 3 has always spiced things according to my requests, even when I moronically asked for the "Gangsta Murder Style" casserole extra hot. Tonight, the chef at Hot Pot House sent out a small sample of the Dan Dan Noodles to see if I liked the spicing, and then fulfilled my request to make them spicier. The chef's gesture was considerate and appreciated. That might be a more difficult thing to do during peak hours, or with other dishes, but it was a great way to guarantee I'll be a repeat customer.
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