I should admit upfront that I had pretty low expectations walking into Mongolian BBQ tonight. Years ago my friends and I had incredibly bad customer service here and we never returned. We were
practically literally ignored once we had our bowls. Refills of soda and water were had by none. Many “excuse me’s” and gestures went unanswered. No eye contact was even attempted. Eventually one of my friends got up, walked behind the counter with his cup and started to refill it himself. Only then did one of the servers finally notice and promptly took the cup from him to finish filling it.
Since then, almost every time I’ve driven by this restaurant on Harding, I’ve noticed that the parking lot usually has at least a few cars in it and often it is packed. I didn’t remember the food being particularly great, and I certainly had an idea of what the service was like, so I always wondered how they continued to stay somewhat busy. Tonight I decided to return and see if I would have a repeat experience.
When I walked in just a few groups were eating. I turned to the right where the cashier was, an older man that pointed to my left and towards the tables. In that direction a woman was gesturing to a table and once I nodded in acceptance she left to prepare my appetizers/sides. I headed to the counter and grabbed a bowl. The food trays were all well stocked up and the counter was very clean. Several employees were waiting around and watching me closely, obviously waiting for the dinner rush and I think a little curious about my camera.
Working my way down the counter I added pork, spinach, yellow onions, green onions, zucchini, mushrooms and noodles. Reaching the sauce I went about half and half House Special and Kung Pao until it was about a half an inch from the top. A couple heaping spoons of chopped garlic and I was ready to hand it over to be cooked.
I asked the cook if he would mind if I took a photo of him and honestly I don’t think either one of us understood each other. I took one quick snap and left it at that which he didn’t seem to mind. With that I took my cooked bowl and sat down at my table. 2 small bowls of rice and egg drop soup as well as a couple small fried wontons and some sort of bread-like stick were waiting for me. The waitress came by and asked if I wanted anything to drink other than water. I asked for a Mr. Pibb which she delivered quickly.
The rice was decent. I did eat most of it which is rare for me at Mongolian BBQ joints. The wontons were typical wontons, it’s hard to screw those up I suppose. The little bread thing didn’t really do anything for me. The egg drop soup was nearly flavorless and very disappointing. I love the soup at Sizzle Mongolian in Rocklin and Great Wall Grill’s is pretty good. I usually look forward to sipping on that while my bowl of BBQ cools off a bit. I had just a couple spoons of this before pushing it aside.
The BBQ itself was better than I remember it being. The sauces were strong, though a bit saltier than other places. For as much Kung Pao sauce as I put in, compared to what I use elsewhere, my bowl was actually not all that spicy. Everything tasted pretty good overall. I was fairly happy with how it turned out. The waitresses were on top of the dining room while I was there. They stopped by the table just across from me at least 5 times refilling water and handled a small rush of about a dozen people that showed up at once with ease. My soda was refilled a couple times before getting empty.
The food is not the best in town but it will do in a pinch. Sizzle Mongolian BBQ is still my favorite in the area, followed closely by Great Wall Grill and Mongolian Bliss. Overall I was pretty impressed by the difference in service here. Everyone seemed fairly nice, particularly the man working the cash register. One thing I immediately noticed was that their English is very rough. Communicating basic things such as drink requests and taking care of the bill didn’t seem to be a problem, but anything else was very difficult. After paying I asked if I could take a couple photos of the counter. He definitely didn’t understand me until I mimed taking a photo, pointed at the counter and then held my camera up. He then seemed to get it and after looking for the right words said something along the lines of the owner saying no. So instead of those I will leave you with this photo of a big dog in a truck that I saw in the parking lot on the way out.