It may be scorching outside, but a taste of a traditional Chinese Hot Pot is well worth the steam on your brow.

Four Seasons Hot Pot & Dumplings arrived in Provo three months ago and offers homemade traditional Chinese dishes, a far cry from the deep-fried fare prevalent at some fast-food Chinese chain restaurants.

The 13-page menu may be overwhelming to the indecisive, so stick with the two specialties identified in the name of the restaurant -- hot pots and dumplings.

Traditionally a winter meal, the hot pot is a fondue-like dish. Tables in Four Seasons are equipped with electric stoves that heat pots of broth up to 400 degrees. Choices of your "base" include chicken broth, tomato soup, miso soup, SiChuan Maio Spicy Soup, milk soup and Chinese herbal soup.

Table for twofi Ask for the double yuan yang pot that comes with a divider in the middle to satisfy both parties.

As the broth boils, you are free to fill your plate with myriad meats and veggies. A buffet of add-ins includes chicken, beef, pork, fish, crab, mussels, tofu, mini bok choy, broccoli, seaweed, mushrooms, noodles, eggs and a variety of sauces to add kick.

Stab your choices with your skewer and wait two minutes for add-ins to cook, especially the meats.

With seven broth choices and 18 add-in possibilities, a simple mathematical calculation reveals that more than 31,824 hot pots can be created.

Dumbfoundedfi Stick with the dumplings. Three styles of dumplings are served: Shui Jaio (boiled), Zheng Jaio (steamed) and Xiao Long Bao (steamed mini-bun).

We loved the pork and Napa cabbage Xiao Long Bao mini-buns. The Zheng Jaio with pork and cilantro also was a nice combination.

Mix and match your dumplings with pork, beef, chicken, bell pepper, zucchini, chives and egg. All are served with a delicious soy sauce ginger garlic dipping sauce that, unfortunately, requires two packs of gum to neutralize. We think it's worth it.

If your appetite is bigger than soup and puny potstickers, try the full-sized Chinese steam bun. Roughly the size of a palm, these buns are more bread-like than dumplings, and the fillings are just as tasty.

Need to cool down your tongue in between bitesfi Try the Northeastern Chinese salad, a lovely chopped mixture of green beans, cilantro, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage and other vegetables served with the house sesame dressing.

The usual Chinese restaurant experience -- a fork thrown on your table by waiters who view you as an outsider -- is pleasantly different at Four Seasons.

Husband-and-wife owners attend to their customers with the utmost respect, doing their best to pronounce English words. Even so, it is necessary to point to the menu when ordering.

The restaurant is small, cozy and exceptionally clean, with Chinese decor and passages of history plastered on the walls. The restaurant's owners seem to want you to experience their culture while filling your stomach.

The tables were empty at 5:30 on a Wednesday night, which makes us wonder if service would be slower with just two workers and a larger crowd. Pricing for the all-you-can-eat hot pot buffet is a bit steep during dinner hours so stop by during your lunch break to enjoy hot pots at half the price.

Soft instrumental music might help you forget busy University Avenue is steps away. The kitchen is not well hidden, but the owners are discreet in their chopping and steaming, and whistling to Celine Dion as they work.

Review

Four Seasons Hot Pot & Dumplings

Where: 236 N. University Ave., Provo

Price Range: Dumplings: $5.95-$7.95; Hot Pots: $8.95 at lunch; $13.95 at dinner; Salad: $5.95

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. lunch and 5-9 p.m. dinner; Friday & Saturday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. lunch and 5-10 p.m. dinner; closed Sundays

Info: 375-6888