I'm sure we're all aware that when we were growing up in the mall, what the bored food court employees were sweeping around the surface of a hellishly hot iron circle was not remotely Mongolian*. What we merrily call Mongolian BBQ is really a Taiwanese infatuation that grew out of teppanyaki.
Still, it's a lot of fun, so why not perfect it? The good people who brought us Pazzo Gelato had the idea to create this clean, elegantly designed place on Sunset.
You know how it goes. Grab a tray and a bowl, and move carefully along the counter, tonging frozen curls of pork, chicken, lamb, and/or rib eye into the bowl. Add fresh produce. Gobi, in keeping with its clean interior, goes for farm-fresh goodies like spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, shredded cabbage and bean sprouts, but also slivers of yam and butternut squash, which add an autumnal snap to the dish. Go ahead and make all this a teetering mound; pack it like a moving truck, for it will collapse down when cooked.
There is an array of sauces, and you should ladle these generously atop, since they too will bubble away and leave only their essence wrapped around the noodles. Go for volume rather than mixing a little of everything. I prefer several splashes of the smoked oyster sauce, the furiously seedy red pepper sauce, and enough garlic to make my pores weep for mercy. I like the Asian pesto and the green curry sauces when I want more of a vegetarian experience.
Top if off with as many noodles as you dare. Hand this off to the guy at the grill, and before you can start and finish a phone call he will have herded the whole sizzling mass around the iron, slid it expertly onto a plate, and handed it back wreathed in steam. Shake some sesame seeds over it to make it thematically complete, and add many squeezes of their house teriyaki sauce, which is rich without being cloying.
The result is a hot noodle dish with everything you ever wanted, an order of magnitude greater in quality than the Mongolian BBQ you remember. The sauces and fresh ingredients are infused, and you must remember to put down your chopsticks on occasion.
They have a selection of beers, ales and sake, but I like the organic iced pomegranate green tea, cool and subtle. They bring you a sticky bottle of agave nectar to sweeten it, rather like honey in consistency and taste. At the table they will also bring you a basket of crackly little sesame bread, on which I like to pour the agave nectar when no one's looking.
It's slightly more expensive than those days hanging around the food court--the lunch special is a totally L.A.-friendly ten dollars without a drink--but far more satisfying.
* Check out this fairly shameful history, by the company who started Mongolian BBQ, and who also offers you the chance to open your own Mongolianish chain. I like especially how these "hunters of the day and gluttons of the night" "horded" [sic] the feasts of Champions, and I also like how they offer rock shrimp and scallops, which I'm sure were treasured by the ancient warriors in the landlocked country of Mongolia.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Chinese, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park )
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