I usually avoid restaurant chains.
But I made an exception here. The logo makes it clear that we are not at an American chain restaurant. (That's a sheep, in case you couldn't tell) This restaurant opened in China and now has a few in the States and Canada. They seem to be playing down the Little Sheep title in this Texas version. Hmm? That's odd. 1 bonus point for giving us something to ponder.
What's so funny?
I don't recall why Cliff, Rhona and Don were laughing. But I do know we were very slaphappy after our 1.5 hour drive getting to this Westheimer location from Sugar Land. The traffic jam on I- 59 was enough. But we were giddy by the time we reached the comically congested intersection in front of Little Sheep. Fussy drivers were trying to make U-turns. Numerous needy folks were weaving in and out of traffic holding signs. By the time we reached our table we were just goofy with hunger. 5 bonus points for whatever was making us so eager with anticipation!
Oh! Do take note of our shiny burner in the center of the table!
So many things to notice!
Our lovely round table was tucked away from the busier part of the dining room. This gave me a lot more freedom to snap away with my camera. That is actually a picture of Rhona, taking a picture of me taking a picture of this fancy little bit of decor! 3 bonus points for curious features.
What is Mongolian about this place?
I've never been to Mongolia, but the flashy decor and American pop music surrounding us didn't make me feel like I was there. It did feel like a modern restaurant in Shanghai, though. Maybe that's because there were Mandarin characters printed on our menu, or the funny little sheep wearing Asian clothing on the back of the menu. But they don't even speak Mandarin in Mongolia, do they?
Fun Atmosphere Though!
Things were hopping and festive, even if not totally Mongolian. About half the diners were Asian and the waiters wore snappy little uniform jackets with toggle style buttons. So I'll give 3 bonus points good atmosphere.!
The Hot Pot!
Our giant, divided pot arrived and was placed on the burner. Our waiter dialed up the heat, squeezed the dishes of veggies and meats onto the table and gave us a few instructions for cooking. Nothing like a steamy facial of herbs and spice!
Before the half and half broth started to bubble and steam, we could see how distinctly different the 2 sides looked. Huge cloves of garlic, herbs, dried fruits and spices floated in the milky, milder broth. Giant peppers began to dance around in the spicy red broth!
There's something a little crazy about having a dial attached to the table and leaning over a burner in a restaurant. I'm glad I didn't have a few hyper kids climbing around our booth with us. Maybe I should give 4 bonus points for my most risky dining adventure.
Foods for Cooking
Being beginners, we chose a sampler of sorts. We chose beef and lamb as our 2 meats and the rest of the goods just came. There were things I would never have chosen, but I tried them all. This blog emphasizes experience more than food usually. So I'll go ahead and give my highest food rating of 5 points. Not because I loved it all, but because I'll remember it!
As you can see it takes a lot of concentration to figure all this out!
Cliff was very good at timing the cooking of our different ingredients. Rhona was good at digging out the correct foods and serving them up. (Trickier than you would think)
I wonder if the Mongolian Nomads who originally prepared their hot pots over fires took their cooking serioiusly. Maybe they were slaphappy from travel like we had been earlier.
3 bonus points for eating a food with history!
I think the only way you can eat beef tripe is to steam up your glasses and pretend it's something else. The tripe is the only food we didn't finish. That's pretty good, because there were some strange ones. Cuttlefish balls, mussel, beef tendon ball. These made the tofu pod suddenly taste extra yummy.
My main hint for anyone trying this for the first time is to come with friends you are comfortable with! This was one big splattery food party and luckily Cliff and Rhona were relaxed and amused.
A Photo with Andy!
Andy gets 10 bonus points for serving us with whacky sarcasm! He gave us reasonable advice about not over-ordering and he was delightful as he coached us with our cooking. There were silly comments about kids falling in the pot and a lot of other nonsense I can't remember. He was fun, but I had a heck of a time getting him to pose. His first excuse was that he might be identified on America's Most Wanted. He finally agreed if I promised not to claim he was my boyfriend in the photo. (Never know when one of the girlfriends might spot this very photo and be mad) I do have to subtract 1 point because Andy was not wearing one of those decorative jackets that I love!
New to the Blog
This is Cliff's first dining adventure with the blog, so I get to add 2 bonus points. Now I have almost as many friends on the blog as restaurants!
Cliff is making sure I don't miss one more detail as we head out. A bubbling water feature! I guess I better add 1 bonus point, since Cliff pointed it out!
Total of 36 Points for Dining Adventure at Little Sheep!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.