You can always tell a newcomer to a Mongolian BBQ because they are the ones looking dazed in the corner. I was one of them last Sunday!
You would assume that if a restaurant or a type of cuisine is peculiar in its style, your waiter or waitress will explain how the system works, but it is a little overwhelming when you first go to a place like Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ Restaurant (King St Wharf) in Sydney. See, the whole ambiance of this restaurant frightens people somewhat.
The seasoned Mongolians tend to get a little restless, and when that happens gongs will sound and songs will be sung.
Essentially you have an all-you-can-eat buffet that is sure to please since you decide your own culinary fate. Grab a bowl and follow the line of people that look like they know what they're doing which they probably do since everyone always goes back for seconds.
First you decide what meats to delicately place in your little white bowl. Let's see – chicken, lamb, pork, beef, or shrimp? Whatever you choose, be sure to make a note of it. Recipes tend to be forgotten which means you can never quite duplicate the same bowl twice.
Then there are the toppings. Sprouts, onions, mushrooms, peppers and nuts are just a few of the toppings offered. Make sure you heap your bowl full. Even an overflowing bowl is reduced to a mere ¾ by the time it is cooked.
Then bring on the sauces. You must include at least two ladles of sauce in your bowl. It is a cardinal Mongolian rule. You can chose Szechwan sauce, white wine, garlic oil, sesame oil and multiple other sauces for your taste buds' enjoyment.
Last but not least are your spices. A little cayenne pepper and a little Cajun pepper might spice things up a bit. Remember to take it easy on all the spices that start with a "C" though, since those are the most caustic.
As you step up to the grill, something tells you that you've never seen anything quite like this before…and I assure you that you probably haven't. The grill is round and about five feet in diameter. There are usually 2-5 "Natural Born Grillers" with long wooden sticks that take your bowl and toss your food onto the grill as you stand and observe in fascination. They then cook the stir-fry of your creation on the grill.
Check out this video of a similar stir-fry in Toronto
If you are allergic to any foods you must tell them since your food is grilled in close proximity to other masterpieces that your fellow Mongolians have brought to the grill.
This is where all your decisions are gently folded together, creating a brilliant or a catastrophic culinary piece of art. If you haven't added enough sauce the grillers become upset because your food will burn, creating a mess for them to scrape off the grill. I witnessed my friend create such a fiery bowl of food that just placing it on the grill sent smouldering whiffs into the nostrils of a griller.
If you inform them that this is your first visit to their establishment, they might make you sing a song before being rewarded your first taste of stir-fry. Or if you prefer, you could just tip them and hit the gong for the whole restaurant to hear. They also like to make a spectacle of themselves by flipping their sticks, and sending a mushroom flying high only to land directly onto your perfectly filled bowl of food.
When you're returning to your table you will find a bowl of white rice and a plate of soft, warm tortilla shells placed on a side table, to enhance your stir-fry experience. And of course, you are also able to order from their full bar.
If you have room for dessert, they do offer 6 different items but I can pretty much guarantee you won't have room. Since the $26.80 charge is for all-you-can-eat, many people find themselves returning to the grill even after 3 bowls.
For families, it is very child friendly since it is a "loud" establishment to begin with, and there are a few televisions to watch your favourite sports on. You shouldn't have a problem with the service, which is a miracle these days in the food industry. You can leave with full tummies and a smile of bliss on your faces!
If you have the chance to visit the Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ than by all means, don't pass it up. It will definitely be one of the most unique restaurant experiences you've had in a while.