New Sichuan spot Pot N Spicy (8230 SE Harrison St., No. 345, 503-788-7267, potnspicy.com) isn't a restaurant. In an 82nd Avenue space as small as a Subway franchise, it's instead somehow three restaurants at once—none of which quite existed in Portland before now.
The bare-bones hallway of an eatery is located next door to what used to be the best hot pot in the city, Chongqing Huo Guo. Though most of Pot's menu is devoted to hot pot, you'll find nothing akin to the familiar Beijing- or Chongqing-style pots here: no burners on the tables cooking bubbling broth, no plates full of raw meat meant to be cooked in the soup.
Eating here is a little like looking at hot pot through a kaleidoscope: You can have it every single way you never thought of, but not the way you're used to. These are the three restaurants you can visit.
The Family Trough
Most of the hot pots at Pot N Spicy aren't even soup. Pot N Spicy is devoted to the dry hot pots of Northern Sichuan, seasoned like fiery, chili-red Chongqing broths, but without the soup base.
Like pizza or Ethiopian injera, it's a format custom-made for the family feed. For $23 to $28, a group of four can gorge themselves on massive and tongue-stabbingly spicy bowls of lotus root, mushrooms and cross sections of potato, plus a protein of choice: tofu, beef, tripe or a seafood medley.
If you get the beef or tofu options—skip the chewy mussel and shrimp—it's a hearty and satisfying meal. Both lotus and potato are left lightly crisp, their starches just barely broken down. Eat as a pair, and you'll have enough leftovers to make a lunch for both of you.
The Hall of Skewers
Everything that can be eaten on a stick can be eaten on a stick at Pot N Spicy. Near the back of the restaurant is a wall of tubs, and each tub contains a porcupine of bamboo sticks. There are chicken wings and gizzard and thigh, beef both meatballed and marinated, clam and octopus and squid and quail egg. For the vegetarian there are seaweed skewers and daikon skewers, skewers of taro and three kinds of mushroom. Somehow, napa cabbage is skewered.
Each of the 30-some skewers is a mere dollar. If you order just a few, they'll arrive in a little stainless-steel bucket filled with your choice of broth, whether curry or "BBQ" or chili-oil spicy. If you order six or more, they'll come in a steaming bowl with free noodles.
But the skewers are far better deep-fried in sweet-potato flour, and served with vinegar and chili sauces. If you are gluten-free, rejoice: You can get anything deep-fried here. Underneath that thin layer of crispness, quail eggs erupt with molten fat, while gizzard and liver bursts with exotic flavor. All things mushroom are heaven.
The Sichuan Noodle House
Last, Pot N Spicy contains a concise Sichuan menu with dishes otherwise unfound in town, in particular a lovely and acidic spicy lotus root salad ($4.99) that may be my favorite on the menu. Lightly cinnamony five-spice beef is offered both as a cold-cut dipping side ($8.99) and as the protein in a beefy udon-noodle soup ($7.99) whose broth swirls with red pepper oil. Those same noodles are brought to bear on a black-bean-sauce zha jiang mian available for an impossibly cheap $5.99. For the bold, there are chicken feet with pickled peppers and multiple preparations of spicy tripe.
The restaurant's gift for deep-fry is again showcased with a dark-meat Taiwanese popcorn chicken light enough it lives up to its name.
I would return again and again to this last version of the restaurant, mixing its beef noodles and lotus root salad with deep-fried skewers as a parade of tiny delights, shot through with chili spice.
GO: Pot N Spicy, 8230 SE Harrison St., No. 345, 503-788-7267, potnspicy.com. Noon-midnight daily.