Recently I visited one of my regular South Bay lunch spots: Sizzling Stone in Milpitas. The name pretty much describes exactly what this place is about - hot rocks with stuff cooking on them. More specifically, your lunch is served in a heavy duty stone bowl that's roughly the same temperature as the surface of the sun.
If you asked me to describe Sizzling Stone in five words or less, I would reply with "Chipotle meets Chili's in Seoul." As you walk up to the main glass-fronted counter, you are presented with a bewildering array of menu options on a large board on the back wall. Ignore it. Instead, simply tell the friendly waitstaff you want a bowl and begin pointing vaguely at the ingredients you want in it. There are noodles, three kinds of rice, a ton of veggies, a few meat options, and about a billion other toppings to choose from. When you're done assembling your masterpiece, they take the bowl and throw it directly on a burner as-is. While you wait for your lunch to heat up, grab some sauces, a bit of extra kimchee, and find a table.
Your bowl will arrive at your table a few minutes later at several thousand degrees Kelvin. Add your sauce, stir it up, and enjoy (carefully). The very best part about this place is how customizable the food is. You can go totally healthy or totally bad-for-you. You can go spicy, garlicky, saucy, or none of the above. Even the pickiest eaters are guaranteed to find something here that they will like, and adventuresome types will have a good time as well. Prices are about $11 per person including a drink, which is on the medium-to-high end of the lunchtime value scale. Mostly you're paying for the presentation.
This next point isn't really the fault of Sizzling Stone itself, but I'm obligated to report that navigating the Milpitas Square shopping area to get to this restaurant is freaking terrifying. It's like the Running of the Bulls, only you're fleeing from dilapidated 1990's minivans festooned with Hello Kitty plush toys. The parking lot - which appears to have been designed by M. C. Escher on mescaline - is specifically constructed to lure you down dead end aisles so that you can get trapped by someone learning how to park their car for the very first time. Your best bet when this occurs is simply to leave your vehicle wherever it happens to be at the moment, just like everyone else has. When you are done with your meal, odds are you will find yourself blocked in by a half-primered Del Sol with a compact disc hanging from the rear view mirror. If you escape this pit of automotive hell with fewer than three or four dozen door dings, consider yourself lucky.
In spite of the parking lot issue, I rate Sizzling Stone a respectable 87 Third Degree Forearm Burns out of a possible 115. This place is certainly worth checking out if you're in the area, but I'd recommend getting a rental car first.
510 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA 95035