#196: GK Mongolian BBQ

As with CJF Chinese Fine Cuisine, this is an unexpected post. I saw a while ago that the Great Wall Grill sign had been changed to GK Mongolian BBQ. I wasn’t sure if it was a rebranding or if it was a new business. Today I thought I’d go find out. Whatever the case may be I figured I’d have some tasty Mongolian BBQ for lunch.

As soon as I walked in, just after 11AM, I had a pretty good idea that it was different owners. Although largely unchanged, the wall that previously had Polaroids of customers had been redone with posters marked with the GK logo in the corners. The front-of-the-house staff all wore white t-shirts with the GK Mongolian logo on them. It had a very clean, corporate feel to it. Take that however you will, but China Run very much had that feel to it despite being a single, locally owned and operated location and I loved the place. One of the posters was a black and white photo of a cook and it said “GK Stockton 1986,” which lead me to believe there were more than just this one. After a bit of searching I was able to find another 3 or 4 locations in the Stockton/Modesto area, but that looks to be about it.

Moving along, I was greeted quickly by the host. From here on out, the service and flow was pretty much identical to how Great Wall ran the place. He asked me if I was dining in or taking out, then ran me through the options of soup or salad (I went with the egg flour soup), white or fried rice (I passed on this) and what kind of drink (I chose a Mr. Pibb). He told me to go ahead and get started on my bowl and pointed out the booth where he would get me setup.

The line of ingredients seemed mostly unchanged. All the usual stuff was there, beef, pork, lamb and chicken, noodles, white & green onions, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. They even still had tofu, of which Great Wall was one of the few places that carried it. The sauces, oils and seasonings towards the end were all similar, if not the same as before. I built the same bowl I typically make everywhere and loaded it up to just below the rim with mostly house sauce, a little bit of kung pao and one small ladle sesame oil. The cook went to work right away as soon as I was ready and within a couple minutes I had a steaming hot bowl in front of me. I topped it off with some fried chow mien noodles, sesame seeds and peanuts then headed to my table, where my Pibb, soup and appetizers awaited me.

I don’t recall if Great Wall had something other than the fried wontons for their appetizers, (my photo from the time shows a darker sauce along with the sweet and sour, so probably) but this time I got a fried pot sticker in addition to them. It was damn good. Much better than the boring fried spring roll at my favorite place, Sizzle in Rocklin. I devoured the appetizers quickly. The egg flour soup I wasn’t really feeling, but that’s the case at most places to be honest. Sizzle’s is pretty good and is the only one I really enjoy, even if it’s a bit bland by it’s nature. The bowl itself was very good. Either I went with a different mix of sauces than my previous Great Wall visits or they have changed them a bit because the flavor seemed more intense than before. The bowl was cooked well and I was pleased to see that most of my additional sauce was left intact at the bottom of the bowl. Depending on where you go, some places will cut it with a bit of water while cooking, which is why I use so much sauce.

Overall I was very pleased with GK Mongolian BBQ. I feel like they have improved slightly on what I already felt was Roseville’s best Mongolian spot. Granted, I went first thing at lunch and the place was very quiet, but the service was top notch and I had a refill moments after I had finished off the first cup of soda. The price seemed to be about the same, my bill came to just about $10. After a quick chat I learned that GK had purchased Great Wall sometime in late January, so it’s pretty new. I’m glad that, unlike China Run’s change of ownership, the quality has not declined and I can continue to recommend it.

Website (none that I could find, Facebook only): https://www.facebook.com/pages/GK-Mongolian-BBQ/116394935051184

#195: Kusina @ Oriental Market

Tonight for dinner I stopped at Kusina, located inside the aptly named Oriental Market on Harding Blvd.  I’ve been vaguely aware of this place for a long time but hadn’t given it much thought until about a year ago when I decided I should probably add it to my list.  Since then I’ve learned a couple things, mostly from Yelp reviews.  First, while the Oriental Market it resides in does carry a little bit of everything, it leans towards Filipino items.  Second, Kusina seems to be entirely Filipino cuisine.  Besides this knowledge, I was going in blind.  I have absolutely no clue about Filipino cuisine other than I know that adobo is a thing and looks pretty tasty, having seen coworkers at a previous job bring it in all the time.

I arrived at about 5:30 during a break in the rain.  There were a handful of cars in the lot and the market itself was fairly quiet.  From the front door you make a right and go past the registers, then another right into Kusina which has about half of the building’s windows to itself.  The setup is very simple.  A line of tables with skirts to the left where you order, and a grid of 9 tables in the dining area.  On the tables to the left is a heated metal display case with the various items they have available.  There were some cards with item names in there but I couldn’t really tell what matched up with what, not that I recognized anything other than chicken adobo.  I was looking into the case for only a few seconds when a woman peeked around the side and said hello.  I smiled back and asked what she recommended, then mentioned that chicken adobo was the only thing I knew about.  She kind of laughed, then reached in and reorganized some things and moved the adobo card, making me think they were out of that, or that it was only available as a large take-out portion (she had repositioned and then pointed to a pre-filled carton).

I honestly can’t remember how most of the rest of this interaction went because it was incredibly awkward.  Partially because I didn’t know what anything was, and partially because I’m not sure how much of the questions I asked was understood clearly.  She spoke decent English but I think there may have been some bits that were getting lost here and there.  She was very nice though and offered up a couple samples, both of which I ended up ordering in a 2 item combo with steamed rice [$7.50].  Also confusing during the ordering was the sign she was pointing to to help me out, the items were all referred to as sides, which threw me way off.  I made it through the transaction.  I ordered for dine in but she said she would box it to go, probably because she knew I had too much to eat it all there.  She set the container on a tray with some napkins, a fork and spoon and my bottle of Coke [$1.83] and I took a seat at a table by the window.

One of the items I ended up getting was menudo, which I had thought, up until now, was exclusively the name of the Mexican soup.  Apparently it is also the name of this Filipino dish.  As I ate it I decided it tasted kind of like a stew.  Sure enough now that I’m home and have looked it up, that’s exactly what it is.  This had pork in it as well as onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and bell peppers.  It was very flavorful and quite tasty.  I initially wasn’t sure what I would do with my rice but found it to go very well with the menudo.

The other item I ordered was noodles, also with pork.  After a fair bit of Googling I have decided that this must be Pancit, maybe Pancit Bihon?  I think that might be a brand name, I really have no idea what I’m talking about, haha.  I’m not sure what the proper name is to indicate it has pork in it.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this too.  It is made up of thin rice-noodles, pork and a small amount of veggies consisting mostly of green beans and snow peas with some carrot slivers.  I saw a red bell pepper or two in there but they may have come from the menudo.

I’m glad I finally stopped in to see what this was all about.  I go by here almost every day and, aside from going in looking for some different varieties of instant ramen once or twice, hadn’t really known what to expect.  It’s nice to know I can grab something a little different to take home for dinner if I’m in the mood.  There isn’t much information about Kusina out there and they didn’t have a menu that I could take a photo of or take home and scan.  The market itself has a website, but it’s very basic.

Website: http://orientalmarketroseville.com