#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

#140: O Tasty Mongolian BBQ

I’ve had Mongolian BBQ (MBBQ) on the brain for a couple days since I discovered that Mongolian Bliss is now gone, replaced by Asian Bliss (I suspect it’s the same people).  I’ve been unintentionally avoiding the Galleria for the blog because most of the time I would go it would be insanely busy.  I thought I might get lucky today if people were either working or out of town for the weekend of the 4th.  Turns out it was still pretty busy, oh well.

O Tasty Mongolian BBQ is located in the back corner of the Galleria’s food court.  I expected some sort of a mini version of the typical MBBQ restaurant, and wasn’t sure how it would look in a food court setting.  In fact, it’s a pretty full sized counter of ingredients.  Everything I expected to be there was.  Here, you start by paying at the register on the left, get your bowl and drink, then head down to the right and assemble your bowl.  I got a large Dr Pepper with mine and the total worked out to just over $10.  The bowls here are $7.65 for one serving (one serving is typical for lunch at other Mongolian places, but the price here was a little higher than normal, although not surprising for a food court).  Another difference between this food court MBBQ and the full sized ones is that you don’t get appetizers or a side of rice/soup with your bowl.  You can order a combo for $1.25 more that gives you a choice of white rice, fried rice, egg roll or pork dumpling.  The bowls are definitely on the smaller side, though there is a reason (and they have more than one sign explaining this).  The noodles are added, after they take your bowl, by the cook (or the cooks assistant, as was the case with mine).

They have pork, beef and chicken to choose from.  All the veggies looked pretty fresh and everything was well stocked.  The line itself was quite clean considering they pretty much had a non-stop flow of customers the entire time I was in the food court.  The line moved about as fast as they could cook each bowl.  I think from start to finish the whole process took about 10 minutes.  As I moved down the line I added: pork, onions, spinach, bean sprouts, zucchini and mushrooms.  After that everything was handled by the staff.  The woman that rung me up had jumped up the line to help out and took my bowl.  Here she went over all the sauces and asked what I wanted by asking “spicy/no spicy?”, “Sweet/not sweet?”, “garlic?” etc.  From my answers she ladled certain sauces and a bit of garlic (I asked for extra which she added).  After that she added a bigger scoop of a dark sauce from a larger container behind the counter and took my bowl to the grill to be cooked next.  I suspect the last sauce is a base flavor and the individual ones she asked me about are to tailor that base to the customer’s tastes.  I noticed that a lot of the sauces she added seemed a little lighter in color than at other MBBQ places.  I wondered if the flavor would be as strong.

The cook poured my bowl onto the donut-shaped grill and then came up to get my noodles.  They have skinny and fat noodles and he asked which kind I wanted.  I went with the fat ones and he scooped up a pretty good amount of them, more than I would normally take myself.  I grabbed a plastic fork and some chopsticks while he cooked.  Once finished, he transferred my food into a styrofoam takeout container and put it on my tray.  I added some crispy mini fried-wanton looking things to it and headed off to find a table in the crowded food court.

The end result was a lot of food.  At least half of it was noodles.  I almost immediately put the forks aside because it was just too thin and flimsy to be of any use.  The chopsticks  were cheap and boxy but did much better work than the fork.  Everything was cooked well and the sauce had equally coated it all.  As I suspected, the sauce flavor was much less intense than how I typically would prepare my own bowl somewhere else.  At first I thought this was a bad thing, but as I ate I realized that I was able to pick up subtle flavors from everything here and there that might otherwise be overpowered.  It actually made for a pretty interesting meal.  The little fried wantons  were great and stayed crunchy to the last one.

I left with a full belly and a much better impression of this MBBQ than I had expected.  It would be nice it their price was more in line with others, but I’m sure it’s not cheap to be located in the Galleria.  I don’t often come to the mall but I think there’s a good chance I would eat here again when I do.

Website: http://www.westfield.com/us/retailers/o-tasty-mongolian-bbq-/galleriaatroseville

#54: Mongolian BBQ

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.