Judging from its menu, 12 Dishes of Basho — yet another mini-mall storefront in San Gabriel — was probably the most ambitious Sichuan restaurant ever to open in the Los Angeles area, a refined kitchen specializing in the haute cuisine of the region. But as wonderful as it may well have been, there are apparently a finite number of locals willing to pay $600 for a bowl of shark’s fin–turtle soup, no matter how exquisite. By the time I finally made it to the restaurant last week, the owner had changed it into a hot-pot joint — all-you-can-eat, $12 a head — called Tan Yu Tou. If you’ve ever been to a hot-pot restaurant, you know the drill. You tick off the meats and vegetables you’d like from a long checklist, a waitress sets a bifurcated boiling pot in the middle of the table, and you dunk chrysanthemum leaves and shaved lamb and mushrooms and beef tendon into either a fiery, complexly herbal red broth or a somewhat milder white broth until you are full. Tan Yu Tou’s red broth is a mean little animal, hotter than sin, resisting even the healing powers of cold Taiwan beer. An hour with the broth will have you sweating as if you have just finished a marathon. Tan Yu Tou, 529 E. Valley Blvd., No. 168, San Gabriel, (626) 280- 8909.
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