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Aug 24, 2008 08:35 PM

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot & Grill, San Mateo

Friday night William and I gave Little Sheep a try. My brother had been to the Union City location before. But stepping in to the San Mateo branch was a whole new experience. It has a full bar, contemporary décor, and more of a buzz to the room. We talked to the manager and he said that this location was unique in the 700+ chain and the first of the “new concept”.

While the setting is lovely, what we were more impressed by was the spicy aromas swirling around the room. The air was saturated by roasted cumin, garlic, chili peppers, and the scent of the grill.

Little Sheep has been discussed at length before, , so I’ll just list our hot pot order.

Half and half soup base, $3.75
Assorted meat combo platter, $12.95
Fish fillet (muddy tasting, don't get this), $5.95
Pea sprouts, $3.95
House special wide noodle (potato starch), $4.95
Both the original and spicy versions of the stock were tasty, and we liked the wide noodles to finish off a lot.

We tried a couple appetizers, typical of street food in Beijing. These arrived after our hot pot came to the table.

Mongolian lamb skewers, $6.95 – Four very spicy skewers with a strip of gristley and highly flavored lamb. Too hot for me to eat comfortably, but I enjoyed the flavors of a couple bites.

Mongolian beef meat pie, $6.95 – This was terrific with many layers of oily, crunchy pastry encasing a thin layer of pulverized and mildly spiced beef. Whereas I feel the need to reach for the sauce pots at Old Mandarin for its version, this was fine unadorned.

The tab adds up fast here, totaling $63 for the two of us, including tax, tip and a diet Coke.

10 Beijing Dishes: What to eat at the 2008 Olympic Games in China by Fuchsia Dunlop

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
215 S Ellsworth Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

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  1. My Friend and I went about 8 months ago and ordered many items, meats, veggies, tofu items, meat-balls, mushrooms, noodles and beers. The bill came to $136. Well we ordered dipping sauce as well. On subsequent visits, the waiters told us not to order dipping sauce because the broth(s) are flavorful enough to coat the items. I was skeptical at first, but he was right. I like the place but I cannot go often because the price is pretty steep. It is difficult for me to hold back.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sfwtchris

      FYI, according to the poster at the front door at Union city, 8/26 Tuesday, they will have a all-you-can-eat day for $18 per person

      1. re: capriana94555

        San Mateo has been running the same Tuesday deal. Tomorrow's the last day.

      2. re: sfwtchris

        Yep, $136 doesn't surprise me. I felt like we ordered pretty light on the hot pot side since we got the two apps.

        We didn't order dipping sauces at first on that theory, but I did ask for satay sauce later, as I felt the meats needed them. It's not great here, I might have been better off with the garlic and sesame oil or sesame paste. The veggies and noodles were fine with just the stock, however, I wanted a little more oomph on the meat.

        I wouldn't order the combo meat plate again, all that chicken breast was a waste. Lamb and beef for me, please.

      3. I went with a friend to the San Diego branch and we loved it; got the half and half (spicy and non spicy broths are actually segregated in the same pot, which boils at your table) and she was skeptical of the spicy, which had tons of chiles floating in it, but ended up liking it. We also really liked the chewy potato starch noodles, but found rather surprisingly that we enjoyed the vegetables more than the meat... a little meat went a long way, for us. Preferred the mushrooms, which soaked up more flavor from the broth.

        I've been really wanting to introduce my husband to this experience by going to the San Mateo branch, but have been putting it off because it doesn't seem like hot pot weather. Also, as long as we're in San Mateo it would be nice to go with his cousin and her husband, but they have a kid... think this setup is unsafe for children?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cicely

          Actually, one of the things we remarked on the aircon and ventilation system at the San Mateo branch. Often at Korean barbecue spots, for example, the blasting a/c chills all your food. No noticeable drafts or gusts here, yet it was pleasantly cool inside despite all the steaming pots. Yes, I did have noticeably cumin-scented hair and clothes, but not nearly to the extent as at tandoori restaurants.

          We were in a booth that seats up to 4 people. There are also regular tables. I imagine that if the four adults sat so that they were a barricade to the hot pot and the child was far enough away to not grab anything, it wouldn't be unsafe. There were family groups here, but I didn't notice any toddlers running around. Because there's a bar and lounge area here, it's more of an adult atmosphere than many Chinese restaurants.

          I neglected to mention how good the service was. Our server helped us make our choices, and we never had to ask for ice water or soup base refills. Empty plates were whisked away within seconds. Bill was presented speedily when we asked, and they gave us two sturdy plastic cartons to take the remaining soup home.

        2. I loved the regular broth at the start, but toward the of the meal it got too bitter to drink, and then it started making the stuff we cooked in it too bitter as well. Maybe we should have turned down the heat. The lamb meatballs and fish dumplings were my favorites. Looking forward to trying the spicy broth sometime.

          What are all those medicinal herbs? I feel oddly hung over.

          Earlier topic:

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Goji berries, jujube fruits, ginger, garlic, & a dried date. This usually would help a hangover. Haha

            Dried goji has a bitter taste to it, but when cooked for longer it gets more and more so. Usually dumping in the meats and vegetables sweeten up the broth for me. Should have asked for more broth refills to dilute it. The Spicy is good! Really good kick to it! They also sell Little Sheep broth (in both flavors) at 99 Ranch if you want to have this at home. It comes as powdered form and you just add water and all the other fixin's.

            1. re: Keesey

              There were a lot of other things in there, including pilose asiabell, longan, and something that looked like but didn't taste like cardamom pods.