by Mike Sula
So when I took another glance at the menu at Crazy Pot, the Chinatown hot-pot spot that replaced the late and briefly great Tao Ran Ju a few months ago, I was intrigued by the inclusion of the "Macau Style Pork Bone Soup Pot" that headlines the all-you-can-eat menu (among "Crazy Chicken," spicy, non-spicy, and spicy/non-spicy versions).
Brought to the table on a portable gas burner, this deep tureen comes filled with an opaque milky white broth that conceals sectioned ears of corn, carrots, potatoes, and huge gnarly shanks of meaty pork bones, from which you're meant to suck out the marrow with straws. It's already a crowded bowl, but you can pack it further with about 45 other add-ins, from meats (sliced lamb, cuttlefish balls, free-range chicken), vegetables (white turnip, pumpkin, wood-ear mushroom, cilantro [which turns out to be coriander seeds]), and a variety of noodles and dumplings. On your early plunges into this pot you might find the flavor bland—nothing at all like the truly crazy cacophony of flavors in any given dish at Fat Rice. But you can liven things up with a trio of sauces: a chile-soy vinegar, sesame paste, and thick, oily fish paste.
Ultimately this is like a jazzed-up, porky version of the Korean beef-bone soup seollantang, the hangover helper best executed at Lincoln Square's Han Bat. If you find that soup too minimal (or too beefy), this customizable variant is just for you.
Crazy Pot doesn't have the wonderful soup dumplings of Tao Ran Ju (or its embedded burners), but it does boast a "famous chef from Hong Kong" and a number of additional hot-pot options like "House Special Braised Water Duck Pot," "Rice Wine Chestnuts and Chicken Pot," and "Traditional Wine Braised Rabbit Stew," along with a host of kitchen-prepped dishes (steamed eggplant with dried fish in XO sauce, Japanese pumpkin in egg-yolk sauce, frog with gluten, etc). But everybody gets a hot pot.
Crazy Pot, 2002 S. Wentworth, 312-225-8892