Hot Pot Heat

Two hot pot spots that will keep away the winter blues

We'll be the first to admit that it doesn't get that cold in L.A.

But on those overcast days when you're caught without a jacket, we crave one thing: hot pot, that communal meal that combines noodles, vegetables and meats dipped in boiling tubs of broth.

In Arcadia, the newest import obsession is Hi Dai Lao Hot Pot, the first U.S. location of an opulent Szechuan-based chain. It's even housed inside a high-tech building designed to resemble the Beijing Olympics Bird's Nest. Families wearing splatter-proof aprons (provided) gather around massive cauldrons of flavorful broth ($8 per person): spicy peppercorn, mushroom, seafood or thick red tomato.

Waiter doing the noodle dance (Photo: Hai Di Lao)

From there, order your dipping materials on an iPad. There are dozens of options–from wagyu beef ($15) to wood ear mushrooms ($5) to strands of noodles ($2) made tableside in a flamboyant show. Hi Dai Lao is pricier than other SGV hot pot restaurants, such as Boiling Point, but with its entertaining bells and whistles, patrons don't seem to mind.

In Little Tokyo, Kagaya has been serving immaculate Japanese shabu-shabu (hot pot) for 16 years. How O.G. is owner Masato Kagaya? In 2004, before the ban was lifted, he was charged with smuggling ultra-premium Kobe beef into the U.S. Order the mixed-course meal ($57), which includes chawanmushi custard, house pickles, velvety slices of beef and crab legs, as well as plump udon noodles cooked in perfectly seasoned stock.

We feel warmer just thinking about it.