Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Little Fat Sheep is more than the restaurant's name; it's a lifestyle.

So impromptu restaurant visits result in crummy cellphone pics. I'll update with better pics if I go back.

You know that feeling of pride and independence you get when you first eat out with your friends without any adult supervision? It usually happens in the early years of high school (or in middle school for the non-Quebecois), and it usually happens at the 3 Amigos, since fast food places don't count. Well, in my case, one of my first independent restauranting experiences was at the Little Fat Sheep, an AYCE Mongolian hot pot franchise restaurant in Chinatown.

Okay, let me take one minute to say....

Rawr! I'm alive!


... For approximately two weeks.

Yeah, okay, I'm done.

Accessibility - Grade: A
The restaurant is at the heart of Chinatown, a mere five minute walk from Place D'Armes metro.

Service - Grade: B
There isn't really much of a service issue, since it's mostly self-service. However, the waiters do come around to give you more plates of lamb or beef if you request it, and they also come to add more broth to the hot pot if you run low. They might not smile much or say much, but they're pretty efficient.

Public service announcement: If you're 10+ people, always always always call ahead to reserve. This place can get really busy, and there isn't much waiting space.
Food - Grade: B+
Personally, I like to know what I'm eating and how to eat it before going to a restaurant. If you've never had hot pot before, then you'll find that eating at this restaurant is a pretty unique experience, and might be confused as to what to do on your first try. I'll just give you a brief, basic procedure.

Individual pot with spicy and mild broth

The waiter will ask you what kind of pot you want. You can either get an individual small pot or you can share a communal large pot with your friends. Either way, you can choose between spicy broth, mild broth or half-and-half, as shown above. What I like about Little Fat Sheep is that their broths have very intense flavours that become infused into everything you cook in it. Since the only seasoning and flavouring you'll have for the food is in the broth and in the dipping sauce, it's important to have a great-tasting broth for hot pot.

Plates of lamb
While most of the items are self-serve, the sliced lamb and beef are made to order. They're still AYCE, but you can only order a few at a time. They usually start by giving you one plate of lamb per person, and they give you beef if you request it. The meat is machine-sliced, so they're very thin and soak up the flavours in the broth more easily. The lamb is fatty, but has a rather strong lamb taste to it, and beef is nice and lean. Make sure not to overcook the meat, though, or it becomes too tough!

Random ingredients
You can then get other foods to put in the pot at the buffet area. Items in the buffet range from vegetables to meats, mushrooms to noodles, tofu to seafood (only for supper, though). I see a lot of hot pot newbies eating out of their large plates, but the usual practice is to eat out of the bowl and to use the large plate for collecting ingredients. Also, it's important to make sure you cook everything before you eat it. I've seen some people eat raw seaweed; since most of the ingredients are meant to be cooked, I don't think the kitchen takes great care to wash them. It's safer to thoroughly cook everything.

Random vegetables
I didn't take any pictures of them, but the buffet area also includes a wide variety of dipping sauces, cooked appetizers, fountain drinks and desserts. For the dipping sauce, I like to use a mix of sesame sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce and bean curd sauce with a bit of coriander. My friend likes to use oyster sauce. It's all a matter of personal taste; mix and match, and see what best suits your taste. As for good desserts, I personally like the sesame balls and the fried buns with condensed milk (found in a red ketchup bottle). They might not taste very fresh after sitting in open air for so long, but they're still pretty tasty.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...
After bringing your pot to a boil, put your food in and let it cook. I wouldn't recommend putting everything in at once, since it could take a really long time to cook and your pot might overflow. After your pot starts boiling again, wait for another minute or two, and your food should be ready to eat. Meat is usually cooked after it turns brown, and tofu and shrimp/fish/squid/beef balls are usually cooked after they start floating. After fishing your food out with the ladle (or even just your chopsticks), dip them in your sauce and voila! They are ready to eat. If you handled raw foods with your chopsticks, just boil them for a bit in the broth and they should be okay.

Price - $$
Prices are around $15 for lunch and $20 for dinner (before tax and tip). I think these prices are fairly reasonable, especially for AYCE. Be sure not to have too many leftovers, though, or they'll charge you extra.

Final Grade: B+
I've been to a few hot pot places, but Little Fat Sheep is still my favourite. I like the fact that you can choose what and how much foods to put in. The ingredients are also fresher than the ones at a rival hot pot place in Chinatown with a similar concept. I just have one warning for all those who want to go: the smell of hot pot will stay in your clothes and hair until you wash them and shower. You might want to stay far away from people if you're taking public transport to get home after. :P

And because I'm evil.
Little Fat Sheep
Little Fat Sheep
50 Rue de la Gauchetiere Ouest, Montreal
Little Sheep on Urbanspoon


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