Hot Pots and Huo Guos
I’m also guessing ma3 la4 huo3 guo1. This style of restaurant is extremely popular and common in Taiwan based on my recent visit. It’s almost always all you eat, and the choice of ingredients vary from your standard thinly sliced beef, lamb, pork, etc. to tripe, pig ear, pork ribs and various seafood, as well as various veggies and tofu skins. You pick out your own ingredients (or order from menu) and cook it yourself at the table.
And for the broth base, you can specify from not-spicy all the way to super ma3 la4 (spicy-numbing).
There’s one hot pot place in Miliptas Square (also on Clement in SF?) called Coriya, but they have a reputation for not being very clean. (flies, dirty floor, etc.)
There’s another place called Ningji Ma La Hot Pot in Fremont, but I’ve not tried it so don’t know how good it is. Although it is named after the most famous/original Hot Pot restaurant in Taiwan, not sure if they’re related.
While I would agree that the Taiwanese adaptation of the Ma La Hot Pot is not the “real deal” or as an authentic Sichuan, I would not rule out Ningji so quickly. It probably will be closer to Sichuan version than Coriya. Coriya (at least the original Taiwan branches) started out as a combination Korean-style BBQ + Japanese-style Shabu-Shabu in one place, so it’s further removed from Ningji, which started originally as the Ma La Sichuan- style Hot Pot. Hopefully we’ll have a report soon.
The best Sichuan version I had was cooked by an old Sichuan friend who used his family recipe to cook up the best, most ma la and the most intensely flavored hot pot I’ve ever had. I had as much pleasure eating it as I had pain the next day if you know what I mean.