Details: Located at 136-59 37th Avenue, Flushing, NY 11354. Official site is http://www.littlesheephotpot.com/
To my surprise, I recently learned how few people know about the joy that is hot pot.
Known by many names (e.g. shabu shabu), hot pot is a communal meal where people cook their food in a big (hot) pot in the middle of the table filled with boiling broth. The broth can be not spicy, spicy, and extremely spicy in many cases (often times you can get half spicy and half not spicy). Common ingredients include beef, lamb, fish, seafood, and vegetables. At most hot pot places, there will also be a rack where you can make your dipping sauce, which usually consists of Chinese barbecue sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, etc. A meal often eaten in Asian countries, hot pot is often the meal of choice during holidays or special occasions. Most of all, hotpot is a tasty and fun group activity. Kind of in the same vein as fondue.
To my knowledge, Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is a large chain of hot pot restaurants with locations all across the country and internationally. The one I went to was in Flushing, NY. I’ve been to many hot pot places and in comparison to the other places in New York City, Little Sheep is pretty good. The food is pretty fresh. The service is surprisingly good. While not the absolute best hot pot in town, it can hold its own.
My last visit here, I ordered all the usual things: sliced beef, sliced lamb, fish, beef balls, fish balls, bok choy, clams, corn, tofu, and noodles. Everything was fresh and very good, but hot pot is unique in that a lot of the tastiness of the food comes from the customers ability to cook it. On the other hand, it is actually pretty hard to mess things up.
With that said, my goal in this review is to be both descriptive of Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot and instructive on how to have a good time here. So here we go…
Firstly, the sauce. Everyone has their own combination that they enjoy, but I will list the ingredients in mine: heavy Chinese barbecue sauce, garlic, parsley, green onion, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. That’s it. Mix and enjoy. Additionally, applying ample sauce is not a crime.
Second, I’ve tried a number of appetizers here, but the only thing worth getting is the sesame pancake. Hot, steamy, soft, and crunchy, the sesame pancake is delicious on its own, but irresistible after being dipped in the condensed milk it is served with. I would go so far to say that if you come here and do not get the sesame pancake, you wasted your trip.
Third, be mindful of how long things take to cook. Over cooking makes things taste like leather or mush. Under cooking… may make you sick. So here are the rules for cooking: meat is done relatively fast and should be cooked until it is no longer red; fish is only slightly longer and should be cooked until it is not translucent (check the center); meatballs/fishballs can be cooked almost forever so lean towards longer; corn takes a while; vegetables can be cooked a while but should be taken out relatively soon if you want them to remain crisp.
Noodles… ah noodles. I don’t know where they get their noodles, but the fresh noodles here are some of the best I’ve ever had. None of the noodles I get from the Chinese super market come close to the chewiness and tastiness of Little Sheep’s. Pro tip on cooking them: one to two minutes in the hot pot. No more, no less. They will be delicious. I recommend their fresh noodles as much as I recommend their sesame pancake. They are that good.
Score: 7/10 While hot pot isn’t exactly a Michelin starred affair, it isn’t meant to be. It is a fun meal meant to be shared with your friends. Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is a great place to introduce your friends to the idea or to return to for more hot pot fun.