Friday, February 8, 2008

HuHot Mongolian Grill

Restaurant: HuHot Mongolian Grill
Address: 990 South 72nd Street - In the old Sofas and Chairs building
Genres: mongolian grill
Check Constraints: None known.
Chain: Yes. | More Omaha Locations: Yes.

  • Adult Dinner ($11.99)
    • Hot & Sour Soup
    • First Bowl
      • Hot Sausage, Onion, Yakisoba, Mushroom, 5x Mean Bean Garlic Sauce
    • Second Bowl
      • Chicken, Broccoli, Chinese Noodles, Onion, Green Pepper, Green Beans, Mushroom, 3x Black Thai Peanut, 3x Kung Pao Yow
    • Third Bowl
      • Salmon, Pineapple, Peapods, Onion, 3x Bekter's Ginger, 1x Lemon, 0.5x Garlic Oil
  • Sake Flight ($4.95)
    • 1oz each Pearl, Asian Pear, Raspberry, and Diamond
I've eaten at a HuHot before, but they just opened up the new location on 72nd street, and since it is not exactly far from my apartment, we decided it was a nice venue for dinner. Besides, the blog hasn't had the chance to hit a new restaurant yet, so this was the perfect opportunity for a scoop! Or so we pretended. What it meant was there was a chance for good Mongolian-style grilling, and very possibly some alcohol.

And boy howdy, what alcohol. A while back Mecha ordered a four-pack of Momokawa sakés from wine.woot - they were delicious, and then we learned that they stock them at Whole Foods, and then things just went downhill. But anyhow. When I learned that $5 would get me four 1oz shots of Momokawa saké, there was not a chance I was going to turn it down. And it's excellent, really. The sake's good, they present it in four faux-stone shotglasses on a faux-stone runner, and if you're of a mind to, you could slam them all in sequence.. I recommend taking your time, however, as it will allow you to really enjoy the taste, and for $5, it's a very excellent bargain.

If you're not familiar with Mongolian grilles, the concept is fairly simple. Assemble raw or raw-ish ingredients in a bowl or on a plate, apply sauce to taste, and let the grillmasters cook it on an incredibly hot flat griddle (usually circular). There are varying implementations of the concept, but the latest installment in Omaha's HuHots - the third thereof - does it very well. They have a lot more space than their 114th St location, as well as a larger griddle and more space around the ingredient bars. Their griddle chefs are a little new at the task, but their waitstaff is capable and well-trained right off the bat. Perhaps a little too eager, but I can forgive that in moderation.

The decor is modern, the light is "dramatic" (read; dim), and the food is excellent. It's a shame it's that close to my apartment, because it means I'm very likely to become poorer soon. It's an excellent addition to the Omaha franchise.

  • Adult Dinner ($11.99)
    • Asian Salad (Sweet)
    • First Bowl
      • Shrimp, Mixed (mainly green) Pepper, Bean Sprouts, Bamboo, Onions, Water Chestnuts, 2x Peanut, 1x Sesame Oil
    • Second Bowl
      • Beef, Pad Thai Noodles, Carrot, Pepper, Bean Sprouts, Bamboo, 2x Peanut, 1.5x Red Curry.
    • Third Bowl
      • Pork, Chinese Noodles, Mushroom, Pineapple, Onion. 1x Peanut, 1x Yellow Curry, 1x Kung Pow
  • Samurai Smoothie ($5.50)
I managed to pick up that the place was opening while glancing through a waiting room newspaper, so hooray for us getting to try it out. The place itself was sparsely populated, likely because it just opened, and since the food gets cooked as you want it, that made it really quick to get our food done. But the grill here was much larger than the one at the other HuHot (which could only handle maybe 8, I would put this as possibly double that.) Also, from an allergy point of view, this place initially looks bad if you've got strong reactions to things, but the website says that they'll work with allergies if you want by cleaning off sections of the grill and using differnt utensils. Of course, neither of us have serious food allergies for what they have, so we can't really test the effectiveness of their methods.

The Samurai Smoothie is mainly a strawberry/sake drink, and mainly tastes of the strawberry. Which is a shame, as I like the flavor of sake, but foe people who want sake without having to taste it, there you go. They seem to basically use sake as the baseline for every mixed drink that they have. Also, they don't have a drink menu at the moment on the tables or anything, except for beers and wines, and the manager didn't even have one ready (he used a sheaf of papers to explain things.) My guess is that they're still a bit in the prep stages, so hopefully they'll work those kinks out. Not knowing how you're gonna buy the heavy alcohol is a barrier to doing it at all.

The menu has a lot of other options (and works fairly well for picky kids) such as potstickers and such, but the bar is the star. As you might guess from my selections, I am a big fan of peanuts and their peanut sauce, along with most of the rest of them, is very solid. The red curry's good too, and now that I know what red curry is supposed to taste like, I can even say that. Aside from the Beef, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp, Salmon, and Hot Sausage, they also had Krab (labeled Krab, helpfully) and another fishy option I can't remember. The other one we've gone to at 114th only had the first three, so along with the size increase there's been a menu option increase as well, and that's good. Not as much of a menu selection as a place in my home town that I've gone to, but the rest of the place is far more solid. The site itself says that options may vary from place to place, so for another store in the chain you might end up with a few options, or a wide variety. All of the food looked safe and sanitary, no mystery buffet here. I'm surprised Cham didn't make a comment about the heat of his sauce options, but there was a pleasant mild heat in most of my options, which is what I like.

It's worth noting that the lunch option (IIRC) doesn't have any attached rice or salad/soup option. Part of the cost change, I'm sure between lunch and dinner. The asian salad is a sweet salad, with lettuce, small crispy ramen-like noodles, and some cabbage thrown in. The dressing makes me want to say 'sweet vinagrette', but that's not really quite it.

The thing that annoys me most about the place is the corny stereotypical motif, frankly. Blah blah Mongols, blah blah pillage, blah blah conquest. I suppose they need a hook to attract some people, but meh. The food is solid, the prices are reasonable for what they have, and it's something different for people who don't really go to the trouble of owning a wok or going deep into other Asian cuisine.

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