The special ramen at Mr. Keke in Great Neck can...

The special ramen at Mr. Keke in Great Neck can be ordered with chashu pork slices and spinach noodles. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

This is a tale of two Chinese restaurants in Great Neck: Mr. Keke Ramen Hot Pot has taken over Ramen Totem, which specialized in noodle soups and Shanghainese dishes until it closed last summer. 

Now the space has a Japan-meets-Disneyland feel to it, with light wood paneling and a large cherry blossom tree that shoots its pink flowers all over the ceiling. New owners Ming Ge and Derike Su plan to open 10 of these fast casual hot pot restaurants in the next year.  They've retrofitted the tables with personal hot pot crocks; patrons order via a QR code from mobile phones.

All this can make for a confusing experience, as you must decide whether to go the Japanese route with a ramen bowl, or the Chinese route with dumplings and dry noodle dishes. But the choice is clear here: Go straight for the hot pot, which is more Sichuan-style than Japanese shabu-shabu.

While you can find better ramen and Chinese dumplings elsewhere in Great Neck, hot pot is rarer. 

Each bowl of broth is only $4.99, then $2.99-$3.99 per veggie and meat add-ins. The list of toppings may be shorter than other hot pot places, but include interesting options like adzuki bean skin, betel nut taro and balsam pear; plus “meatball” options balls made of lobster, squid, beef and beyond. The favorite here is the fish balls, which are Fujianese-style with ground pork in the center.

Toppings are served in geometric black boxes, which arrive in an aesthetically pleasing stacked tower if ordered en masse. Although individual hot pot bowls discourage sharing, it lets you take ownership over your meal. Make sure to hit the condiment bar before the bubbling broths come out. Once you have your sauces ready, throw your ingredients into the broth for a bit (preferably the spicy red mala soup base), add the sauce and you've got a great bite.

Mr. Keke Ramen Hot Pot, 69 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck Plaza, 516-482-8866, Open 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. 

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