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Hi Pot's hot pots.
Hi Pot's hot pots.
Zachary Fagenson

Hi Pot Brings Taiwanese Hot Pot to West Dade

Local universities' efforts to bring full tuition-paying students from Asia to Miami has paid dividends to the city's restaurant scene, adding a bevy of eateries serving previously unseen Chinese cuisine. Hi Pot is the latest to join the bunch with delicate chicken broths filled with wildly diverse toppings that arrive bubbling in a cauldron thanks to an underlying lump of Sterno.

Owner Jack Ling, 35, relocated to the U.S. from China's Fujian province about a decade ago. He said he decided to decamp from New York City to Miami after visiting and noticing the nascent Chinese community here. While noting the few hot pot restaurants around town, Ling said he was confident the Taiwanese version, to which he was introduced by a college roommate from the island, would be a welcome addition.

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"This is a presentation and a flavor that's different from anything else in Miami," Ling said. "We bring in our ingredients from Taiwan and have a combination of traditional and new hot pots."

Here, the menu of a dozen different hot pots is split into three tiers. The lowest, which goes for $13.99, includes options like the cheese milk hot pot: A milk-infused chicken broth is topped with a slice of American cheese, pork slices, Taiwanese cabbage, mini sausages, enoki mushrooms, clams, meatballs, pork blood and intestine, and salted vegetables. A stinky tofu hot pot adds fermented bean curd, which tasted a bit like seared chicken livers and matched perfectly with ripping hot shreds of kimchi. The next level up, at $17.99, includes a Thai tom yum hot pot, alongside supreme spicy and Japanese miso options. The final two, a Sichuan spice and seafood lobster, cost $20.99 each.

The decision to serve the hot pot brimming with all its accoutrements is more a presentational choice than traditional custom. In the best hot pots across the globe, the broth cooks its many components into an ever richer, more complex liquid as it bubbles away. Over time, it turns from a drinkable elixir into a rich sauce that coats and cooks the ingredients. In this, Hi Pot falls short. While the Sterno that warms each pot arrives at tables at full blaze, it quickly withers, leaving the soup tepid. Next, and unlike other hot pots in Miami and around the world, the vast majority of ingredients are ready to eat before they hit the broth. There are no paper-thin slices of raw fatty beef or lamb to cook as one might like.

As such, North Miami Beach's CY Chinese Restaurant, with its aggressive combinations of beef fat, chicken broth with ginger, garlic, and floating Sichuan peppercorns, remains the city's best option. Sure it's a bit pricier, especially considering all the toppings are a la carte, but there's nothing else in the area quite like that deeply flavored and spiced tonic bubbling away at your table. Still, it's good to see interesting restaurants opening in the farther reaches of Miami-Dade.

Hi Pot. 1665 SW 107th Ave., Sweetwater; 786-803-8618; hipotrestaurant.com.  Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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