We just finished a 2-3 hour extravaganza at a Mongolian restaurant called “Bull” right across from the university, courtesy our generous host. It is a “hot pot” restaurant – there are little electric burners at each place at the table, embedded into the table, and when the soup base is brought, you activate your own burner to the heat you desire. In addition to the soup base (which is slow boiled beef marrow, great for the bones, they say), they bring a pile of vegetables, various spices including persil and hot pepper sauce, raw garlic cloves, and two pastes I did not recognize, and then whatever else you order to get thrown into the soup.
We ordered little dumplings and then some shredded chicken in with veggies (bok choy?). In addition our host ordered a set of six little short rib sandwiches on white buns and an order of delectable fried rice (better than what we Americans think of as fried rice), and we had a glass of cool aloe to drink. From then on, it’s up to you – you make your own creation, dipping, dunking, eating raw or cooking, whatever is your fancy.
I said, “This meal is like Facebook.” The younger diner shook her head – huh? – but the older diner understood. What I mean is: from a large set of ingredients/choices, we put together our own page/meal, unlike anyone else’s, and exactly to our liking. Nobody has just the same spices or combination of substances…..yet we are all sitting side by side happily enjoying the same personalized experience, each in our own way!
Then, ice cream balls for dessert, in a sundae dish, on a bed of……cornflakes! Actually, cornflakes make a nice crunchy contrast to the smooth ice cream.
The enjoyment of creating one’s own masterpiece at the table, with one’s own burner, is really great! The same kind of appeal that a fondue place holds, or maybe Flattop Grill, but even better because you mix it all up yourself – it isn’t brought to you.
And — oh, by the way — in Mongolia, NO tipping. Every waiter is serious, professional, but not in your face or interrupting the experience pressing you to order more (“and what are WE having for dessert?). What a delight, what a pleasure, but what is happening to my waistband??