Monday, April 20, 2009

Restaurant Review - bd's Mongolian Grill, 300 S. State Road 434 , Altamonte Springs, FL

bd's Mongolian GrillSouth of 436 in Altamonte Springs is bd’s Mongolian Grill, a mid-West chain now in Central Florida. For those of you not familiar with the Mongolian barbecue concept, basically you choose the raw ingredients you want in your meal, present it to a cook, and he or she will grill it up for you.

We went to bd’s Mongolian Grill for lunch and perused the menu while deciding how much we wanted to eat. Pricing is by how much you want to eat rather than what ingredients you choose. There is a One Bowl option ($8.99), a One Bowl plus soup & salad ($10.99), Unlimited bowls plus soup & salad ($13.99), or, you can order a Mongo Rice Bowl ($6.99) if you don't want to bother with coming up with the ingredients yourself and want the cook to make it all for you. There is also a vegetarian option for all of these if you aren't going to add any meats. Pricing is more expensive at dinner (about $2 - $4 dollars more depending on your selection). The only difference at dinner is some of the more premium meat selections are offered such as NY Strip and scallops. Kids prices are by age and include the soup & salad bar, which is great for me since my older boy loves veggies and soups. Kids ages 7 – 11 are $5.99, ages 3 – 6 are $4.99 and 2 and unders are free. Kids prices stay the same at dinner.

Before deciding, I looked over the soup and salad bar. When we went, the soups were chowder and chili. I thought it would be wonton or egg drop or some sort of Asian soup so I was surprised. Also, the salad bar was pretty standard, nothing too different. Because of that, I decided to get the One Bowl option. Actually, I wish there was a Two Bowl option, or an Unlimited without the Soup & Salad but those don't exist.

Here’s what you have to do to make your stir-fry:

Choose your raw meatStep #1 - Put your raw meat into a bowl. There were pastas, sausage, beef (ribeye), Krab (the "fake" variety), shrimp, calamari, mahi-mahi, pork, chicken, tofu, and others. The selection changes periodically, for example, there was duck available for the holidays.

Step #2 - Add veggies to your bowl, such as mushroAdd veggiesoms, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, red skin potatoes, pea pods, pineapple, carrots, baby corn, and broccoli to name a few. There was even raw egg, jalapenos, and cilantro! The bins of food were kept continuously stocked. Both times I went up, a worker was refilling any bins that were low. They were all kept filled to the top, which is really nice.

Sauces go in the small black bowlStep #3 - Put the sauces you want in a different small black bowl. The goal, I believe, is to fill up the small bowl to get the most flavor. There were Asian sauces, both spicy and non-spicy, such as Garlic, Soy, Ginger, Szechuan, Kung Pao, Teriyaki, and Thai peanut. There were also other sauces like barbecue, marinara, spicy buffalo, and a lemon sauce.

Step #4 - Add spices and "mix-ins" to either bowl, tSpice timehings like chopped peanuts, coconut, curry powder, red pepper, garlic powder, sesame seeds, etc.

Then it’s time to bring your creation to the huge circular grill (or to Grill it up!the separate allergy station if you are allergic to any ingredients or want a truly vegetarian dish). The cooks will grill up your raw ingredients for you, cutting up the meat, and then add your sauce at last minute, and finish by sliding your creation onto a clean plate. If you wish, there are chopsticks available at the grill, and even kid's plastic chopsticks available from your serverKid's chopsticks. BB got one of these and he liked it better than the wood-and-rubber-band ones you can get at some Asian restaurants. In fact, we took it home and just cleaned it in the dishwasher!

Rice and tortillas on the sideWhen we returned to our table, our server had already brought white rice (sticky), brown rice, and tortillas to eat with our meals. They also have lettuce wraps if you prefer.

On our first visit, I tried to make something similar to Mongolian Beef. I started with half a bowl of beef, added mushrooms, broccoli, and garlic, and then filled a sauce bowl with two ladles of Mongolian ginger and one of black bean sauce. It came out really good! Although, after having a big bowlful of raw ingredients, it surprised me how small the food looked on the final plate the cook handed to me. Hmm, maybe I need fill the raw ingredient bowl more next time I come. I My attempt at Mongolian Beefadded white rice when I came back to the table and ate. Yum!

For LB, I just listened to his instructions as he chose the different ingredients (editing a little when I didn’t think it would come out okay). He had a lot of fun choosing the ingredients hLB's creatione liked. He asked for raw beef in the bowl (I only filled the bowl about 1/4 way), then rotini noodles, baby corn (the only vegetable I was able to get him to add), and then I chose his sauces for the black bowl. He was a bit upset by this as he told me that he did not want ANY SAUCE. I convinced him though and chose a ladle of soy sauce and one of teriyaki. He got into it then and asked I add the sweet & sour sauce as well. Sure! He liked going up with his bowl and watching his food get made. He also really liked the tortillas and ended up eating two of those completely plain along with about half of his actual food.

BB started off with a bowl of clam chowder, then came back up for a full bowl of salad and veggies on the salad bar, and then decided he was ready for a stir-fry bowl. Grandpa ended up helping to choose everything so he told me he was not really sure what he got. But he liked it and said he would like to come back. Grandpa liked his as well but couldn't remember exactly what he put in his either. He was not too happy with the concept as a whole. His thinking was that if he came up with something that he really liked, he wouldn't be able to replicate it next time he came. Plus, he was having a hard time deciding what to put in his bowl. He probably would have preferred a few more recipe cards. Grandma made one of the "holiday special" duck dishes, Citrus Duck, that she found on a recipe card and really liked it, although it was a little sweet. Her only comment was that she would have never known it was duck as it tasted a lot like chicken.

My creation BeforeMy second time at the restaurant, I decided to try for My creation Aftera more Thai-like dish. I got chicken, noodles (I would have preferred more of a glass noodle as opposed to the pasta-like noodle available), and then added mushrooms, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, cilantro, and brocolli. I loaded the black bowl with just the Thai peanut sauce and added shredded coconut and chopped peanuts. Again, it came out good! I could definitely taste the coconut, due to the coconut milk in the actual sauce and the coconut I added.

Due to the food items available, you definitely don't have to stick with Asian. There were barbecue, burgundy wine, and marinara sauces, plus the pastas, so you could probably come up with some Italian, American, or Mexican dishes as well.

Mud PieFor dessert, we tried the mud pie ($5.99), which was plenty big enChocolate Mousseough to share with the whole table. It was a huge slice of coffee ice cream pie topped with a thick chocolate fudge sauce and with oreo cookie pieces mixed in with the ice cream. Yummy! Also I got the chocolate mousse ($1.99), which the server said was "tiny" but was actually a nice size -- plenty enough for two. It was very light, not too rich at all.
They also have a nice website at where you can create your own recipes in advance and then print them out and take them with you. If you are watching calories, etc, the website will tell you the nutritional information of what you are choosing (I'm sure it's not exactly the same as what you are going to get, but it's probably close.)

bd's Mongolian Grill on Urbanspoon

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