The coldest day of the past week or two was that day when the thermometer dropped to minus 10C. It is darn cold but after it dropped below freezing, minus 10 or minus 5, it all feels the same.
So it was time for a hot pot right in the middle of the day. Many hot pot restaurants are opened only for dinner but this is one of those which is open at day time. I think this is because hot pot meals are time consuming and so not suited for lunch for many people who does not have the time for it.
The Mongolian Hot Pot is located in the Lansdowne Mall. It is at the eastern side of this massive mall in Richmond. So you want to make sure you park at the correct side of the mall or else it is a long walk through the mall.
This restaurant is called the Mongolian Hot Pot in English. However in Chinese, the name is translated to “Little Sheep”.
According to their website, it seems like they are one of the largest hot pot restaurant chain with over 350 outlets, mostly in Asia. The amazing thing is that their first restaurant is established in Canada, specifically Ontario, not in Asia.
What I can’t understand is why is this restaurant in Richmond called Mongolian Hot Pot when the “Little Sheep” name is much more well known to the Chinese community.
The irony is that that they claim that Hot Pot is the invention of Genghiz Khan. As far as I know hot pot had never been part of the Mongolian cuisine, let alone having invented it. There were stories that the Mongolians started having hot pots in the cold Mongolian steppes by boiling their food with their helmets.
I don’t think Genghiz Khan invented the hot pot. I think … Mongolian Hot Pot invented the story.
Go ahead and click on the picture above. It is on the paper table mat they have on the table. It has a Hot Pot 101 section for people who are unfamiliar with hot pot.
The Mongolian Hot Pot Restaurant is huge. I think they have the biggest hot pot place compared to any others in Metro Vancouver. I think even the Landmark Hot pot House is smaller than them.
This restaurant has a reputation for extremely bad service. We went in with an open mind and you know what? Most of the service staff do walk around with grumpy faces. Yeah, that external attitude did hit me the moment I walk in and then when I tried to engage them with the menu. It is like they have no time to talk.
I can understand now why there are so many complains about the service here. Something is very wrong and they need to fix it.
You see, the moment we got seated, the waitress just dropped two sheets of order form on our table. It was wrinkled like they had wet it and just dried it up. Fine, it’s not really an issue.
The waitress did not look at us and did not say a word as she dropped that on the table. In my usual cheerful self, I asked her “oh … what is the difference between these two menus”. She just glanced at me, turn around and mumbled that its an order form. I hate people talking to me while turning away. I think it is extremely rude. And I KNOW that it’s an order form. That was not my question.
If the manager had not come to us right after, frankly we would have left.
This is NOT a all-you-can-eat (AYCE) hot pot restaurant. You order the ingredients you want and they are not cheap. So you gotta be careful about what you order because the cost could pile up. They also have “combos” that they have assembled a few ingredients together. Because of the wide range and rather confusing manner that this is laid out, there are a lot of overlap. They should take a complete relook at these two forms and simplify them for the customer.
We left it to the manager to help us pick. We said we want beef because we like beef a lot. We also said we wanted mutton because it is their specialty.
He suggested that we have some vegetables and we decided to get the mushroom platter. Sounds like so little right? Especially when compared with having AYCE Hot Pot.
No flames here. They have electronic built in heating element on the table. It was very effective. You can make the soup boil in seconds by just raising it to the highest setting.
What I like best about this restaurant is that all sauces and condiments are free. You can get as much as you want from the condiment station on your own and they have a great selection too.
But this restaurant is famous for their broth. They are so proud of their broth that they claim that they do not need to rely on many types of sauces to complement the taste.
And I totally agree.
Their broth is second to none. It is indeed full of flavour. We took a sip of the broth as soon as the pot landed on our table. It was really really good.
We got the Half-and-Half Broth which is $10. The non-spicy broth is very milky. It has a lot of ingredients including wolfberry and other herbs in it. This is really good enough that we did not need to eat with dipping sauce. That’s right.
The spicy side of the broth is also very tasty. It is also not very spicy. I can’t see any peppercorn in here but I thought I detected a taste of it in the broth.
Actually, they have a great balance of spiciness that I like a lot.
The Beef and Mutton platter is $16. It is a lot of meat in this platter. We earlier thought that this is “mm dai” (not worth the money) because most places charges all you can eat for the same money but really, how much can one eat. This platter had enough meat to satisfy us.
And it is good and nice meat too.
The Mushroom Platter is $8. It came with a pitifully small plate of Inoki and Shiitake mushrooms.
With just meat, broth and mushrooms I needed more and asked for steamed rice. Yeah, I just like soup in rice. So this is wonderful for me. I actually enjoyed this every much.
Still not satisfied, we ordered something with an interesting name. It is called the Mongolian Spicy Bone ($6).
It is cheap and does look good … but …
This is basically parts from the pork neck bone. There are more bones than meat and the meat was rather tough. We only ate half of this.
Not nice. Don’t order this.
And then we ordered another item. We still have lots of soup and the nice soup is not to be wasted. So we ordered one more dish.
This is called House Special Yam Noodle ($5)
This noodle is very interesting. It is brittle when uncooked but when it is cooked it looked nice with transparent texture and sort of like air bubbles in it.
The Yam Noodle was chewy and firm.
What I like about this place is the broth. That one thing scores for us. The free condiments is what we like too because we get to choose how much we want without having to pay for it.
The service sucks. Big time. They really need to fix it. It is not hard unless they don’t care.
Overall it is not too expensive. You probably pay the same in AYCE with everything included. OK maybe this is a little bit more expensive and that in AYCE you get a heck lot more variety.
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I go there at lunch time and order their lunch time special mini-pot. For the price of 10 to 11 dollars, you get the soup, meat, veggies, noodle and dumplings. They even give you a glass of sour plum drink. Really good value. Here’s their lunch time specials menu I copied from a comment in Urbanspoon.
Set A – Vegetarian (mushroom, bean curd, veggie dumplings, white noodles) $ 9.99
Set B – Meat Eater (fatty beef, lamb shoulder, chives & pork dumpling, vegetables, white noodles) $10.99
Set C – Tradition (lamb shoulder, beef omasum, meat balls, vegetables, white noodles) $10.99
Set D – House Special (fatty beef, bean curd roll, fish tofu, vegetables, white noodles) $10.99
Set E – Heath Giving (fatty beef, chicken fillet, mushrooms, vegetables, white noodles) $ 10.99
Set F – Seafood (cod fillet, squid, shrimp balls, vegetables, white noodles) $10.99
Set G – G For Gold (tiger prawns, cod fillet, lamb shoulder, mushrooms, vegetables, white noodles) $11.99
Thanks Lechon! This is actually good to know!
You’re welcome Elaine. The mini-hotpots are big enough for 2 people specially if you’re ordering other side dishes. My favorite is the meat-eater mini-pot. As Ben said, their broth is very flavourful. A lot better than most AYCE hotpot places. I should also mention that the ingredients in the mini-pots are served on the side. Some of the restaurants that serve mini-hotpots put all the ingredients in themselves.
Thanks! I always wanted to try hotpot, but the prices were out of my range. Those looks more reasonable.
Ooooh!!! Thanks so much for the info Crispy!!! I wonder if they can substitute the beef with pork…hum…hehehe!!! Such good deals!!!
Hi Crispy: Is the prices of the lunch time specials include the soup too? Ben
I still need to try out a hotpot one day…
Hot pot is so much fun!!! Whether it’s a shared pot or mini individual pots, the more the merrier!!! Many AYCE places have great selections!!! Have fun!!!
Is their lunch special available 7 days a week!? I may try it this Sat! I have been craving hotpot for a few days.
We like to go to this place for hotpot with my (ex)coworkers. Our bill usually comes to $35 to $40 per person with everyone very full. Their beer marinated lamb is pretty good IMO.
I believe its only available on weekdays. But please call the restaurant to confirm.
These lunch specials are 7 days a week. At one time I was going every Saturday (or Sunday) for those specials. A great value that includes the broth (only the house special broth) which to me is actually the best 🙂
Thanks CL for the tip on the mini pots especially during lunch when I only have an hour…makes it very convient!
did you know that they sell the soup base mix at T&T?
i’m having my own “little sheep” hot pot as i’m reading your post haha..
I was wondered about those soup base mix at T&T for “little sheep”…is it oily???
it comes with a pack of fermented black beans, a pack of chili peppers, a pack of spices and a pack of spicy oil..so you can adjust how much you want to put in..
i never put in the oil..but it’s just as good.. 🙂
How does the soup base mix compare to the actual one at the restaurant?
Don’t quote me on this because I am not sure. But my mom stopped buying those soup mixes because of all the negative news about what Little Sheep’s soup base was made from in China…
So what is it made of in China? I can’t find any references.
I read that they use New Zealand lamb in North America, but have their own sheep ranches in China.
I also found out that YUM! Brands is buying / has bought a 20% share of the parent company, called Little Sheep. YUM! Brands are the Pizza Hut/KFC/ Taco Bell people.
I recall reading those packages and said they were made in China…scary…I usually don’t buy much food cans or packages made in China…hahaha!
We went to the Happy Sheep this summer with a student from HK. It was the #1 thing he wanted to do on our trip to Vancouver/Richmond.
He took care of the ordering. I think I saved a menu so we could order it again. It is complicated like you say, Ben. I do think it was AYCE, though. Or maybe they have AYCE in the early evening or something like that. We got there not long before they closed.
I have no idea whether it was good according to a standard of cuisine, but the two kids from HK were pretty happy with it. I liked the mutton or lamb. “Mutton” doesn’t sound very appetizing to me, as it connotes an old sheep! The broth was good. I don’t remember noticing the broth at any other hot pot place I’ve been to. I thought it was just water, and turned in to broth after you cooked things in it. Ours at the Happy Sheep had a bone in it.
Now that you mention it, the servers were pretty unhelpful. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say they were surly. They left us alone for the most part. I figured they wanted us to hurry up and leave so they could go home. We wanted more of some ingredient, and the HK student in charge of ordering said not to ask, as it would inconvenience the kitchen. We played rude westerner (in a nice way) and asked for more anyway!
I remember seeing others getting large piles of what looked like romaine lettuce. I haven’t seen that before at a hot pot place.
We went there after a long day of eating Banzai sushi, poutine, and Japadogs so we weren’t all that hungry. I think we would have appreciated it more if we were, and also if it hadn’t been a hot summer day.
Hi etranger: Glad you guys tried hot pot after all the eating earlier in the day. Gosh, I would never have hot pots especially having giant sushis from Banzai. Do you get a lot of hot pot in the Seattle area too? Ben
From the looks of it, Mongolian Hot Pot does have a good variety. I also heard so so service at that restaurant. It’s been a year or 2 but I do like Landmark on Cambie Street. They have great service and decent selection. I actually like their ‘happy hour’ meals. Like you can order a large bowl of plain congee and order a few small plates.
The quality there really surprised us. I guess you get what you pay for. We went to Montreal last year and tried out the Little Sheep there and it was horrible. It was AYCE and buffet (no table service) but the quality of the meat and veggies was bad. How was the service so terrible Ben? I thought you would be used to bad/indifferent service at Chinese restaurants by now.
Hi Ryan: I am used to indifferent service but I will not stand up for rude service. Well, I can’t stand people giving me a face like I had offended them by coming in to eat. And that was exactly what I faced. When I saw a lot of people having platters with food piled up high I asked her what it was on the menu because the 3-pager menu was confusing, she ignored me and turned away. And then the manager came, at least he was helpful but then what did he gave me when he said leave it to him to recommend … a platter of beef/mutton and a platter of mushrooms. I thought when he said leave it to him and when I asked him about those platters I saw in other tables, he was gonna bring me those (CHEAPER) ones. The food was good but the service is terrible. Ben
I’m surprised it wasn’t AYCE. The two places that I know of, the one in Montreal and the one here in Ottawa, are both AYCE. I wonder why they decided to change it up. Maybe because they’re a lot of hot pot competition there?
We’ve bought and used their soup mixes at T&T and other Chinese supermarkets and find it pretty close to the restaurant’s version – and that’s just using water. Imagine if you made your own broth? I’ve also recreated their broth by mixing some chicken brother soup mix (Knorr), a lot of ground cumin, one very potent birds eye chili pepper and some garlic. If you don’t want to buy their mixes, just try that instead.
Oh I didn’t know they gave condiments away for free now. When I went there (maybe a year and a half ago), we literally had to pull teeth to get them to bring my friend some condiments, e.g. satay sauce, egg, green onions, chili — they made a big deal then about how they’re a different kind of hotpot, one that didn’t need all the condiments. (I suppose this is to differentiate themselves from the Cantonese hotpot where condiments are standard.) When we asked them to bring satay sauce, they didn’t want to but finally relented.
We never had problems with service though (I’ve been back about a couple of times) and they weren’t rude or anything. Something really must have changed in the last year and a half. . .
Hi Ben, There is a condiment station? Is it located near
the front, where the plum juice is? I just thought it would be you
ask and they will get…
Hi Teresa: The condiment station is not located near the front. It was at the counter in the middle of the restaurant. I am sure they will give that to you if you ask but the station has a couple of baskets of the condiment saucers which people help themselves to. We would not have known about this if it was not for the fact we were sitting next to the it and saw people going there to help themselves. Ben
In Montreal, we just call this establishment Little Sheep(they’re 2 locations in the Montreal-area). It didn’t click immediately, when you named this establishment ‘Mongolian Hot Pot.’ The Little Sheep menu at Montreal locations are much more simpler. At dinner time only, Little Sheep’s Montreal locations is AYCE(including the drinks).
Forgot to add, Little Sheep was started in China, not Ontario(they already had several hundred restaurant locations in China before opening in North America).
Hi WS: Yeah, you could very well be right. Thanks for pointing this out. I am just reading this page that talks about the history of Little Sheep: http://www.littlesheephotpot.com/about_4.asp … Thanks! Ben
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Just read in the Business section of Vancouver Sun,Yum Foods Mother Company of KFC just bought Little Sheep for hundreds of millions of Dollars. Colonels Original Kentucky Hotpot anyone 😉 ????
That is interesting news, PinoyGourmet. It seems like Yum Brands is moving aggressively and betting heavily on growth in China. It would be interesting to see if they would introduce hot pots to the North American market but me thinks that the acquisition is basically to get a bigger piece of the growing food market in an increasingly affluent China. Ben
It’s not called “Chubby lamb” because there is another Chubby Lamb hotpot on Alderbridge that had the name first in Richmond. But this does lead to confusion.