Little Szechuan on University, which was simply everyone's favorite Szechuan until people started opening Szechuan joints like mad, has evolved.
After closing for what was posted as a quick remodel on April 1, the shop stayed closed for nearly two months. When they reopened on Monday, just shy of the all the Green Line hoopla, they announced that they had reconcepted into the "first and only 100% authentic Szechuan hot pot restaurant in the Twin Cities."
Hot pot is a Chinese tradition, not unlike the Japanese shabu-shabu version, in which you cook items in a bubbling pot of broth in the center of your table. Most pots have a double chamber so you can have both spicy and mild broth. The idea is that you assemble a hodge-podge of ingredients from a table full of bowls brimming with the goods: Little Szechuan says they'll have over 100 items to choose from including spicy pork, bamboo shoots, frogs legs, Malabar spinach, yam noodle, fish balls, and more. You then place your perfect concotion in a little handled basket and dunk it into the broth to cook and flavor the mix. When it's done, in a flash, you pull it out and dump it into your bowl where, if you are smart, you have already swished together various hot sauces, crunchy things, and raw quail egg yolks (this is my hot pot DNA). It's the most fun, especially when you get a gaggle together and dare someone with your frog leg melange while they mix a deadly spicy brew of mushrooms and tripe for you.
It may be a quibble whether or not they are the first 100% authentic Szechuan experience in town. I have had hot pot at Pagoda that was decent, and there's a seafood hot pot listed on the Szechuan Spice menu in Uptown, and of course there is hot pot at Grand Szechuan as well (poke the bear). Truth be told, the best hot pot I've ever had was the one thrown by my friend Dave's wife Megan who is from China. But I'm not giving you her full name, because those invites are precious. Instead, get over to Little Szechuan and see what's cooking.