By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Mongo Man is a 9-foot "warrior mascot" who has the thankless job of traveling around to the various restaurants in the BD's Mongolian Barbecue chain. That means Mongo Man has the unenviable task of frolicking around some 26 locations from Texas (Las Colinas, Plano) to Colorado, Illinois and Florida.
Mongo Man kind of looks like a Weeble. Contact BD's marketing director, Heather Eppink, and you can have Mongo Man at your next event. We suggest someone in Dallas' corporate heavyweight community arrange for Mongo Man to attend the next pink-slip festival. Not that Mongo Man has particularly good shoulders for inconsolable weeping, since they're covered with armor, putting him at risk of rust and corrosion. It's just that the meals are so cheap (all you can eat for $9.99 at lunch and $12.99 at dinner) and they come with an endless supply of rice and flour tortillas, the latter handy for wrapping up leftovers or the spoils of numerous all-you-can eat raids to hoard for future meals.
BD's Mongolian Barbecue is one of those Mongolian do-it-yourself meals that test your facility with cayenne pepper and plastic ladles. It offers a large collection of recipes printed on colored paper for those who fear creating a culinary Frankenstein when left to their own devices. If you do go it alone, restaurant propaganda advises using at least two ladles of sauce and one ladle of oil. They also warn against getting prolific with spices that begin with "c" (cayenne, chili). BD's stir-fry process is tweaked to maximize both efficiency and that mud-pie lust in all of us to make a mess and eat it. The system is composed of separate islands that serve as bastions for various parts of your "Create Your Own Stir-fry," a phrase the company has trademarked.
Dynamite sticks: $6.99
Kids under 12: $4.99
One stir-fry/one trip to salad bar: $8.99
The first island contains a salad bar with zesty grape tomatoes (a rare appearance in restaurants), feta cheese, carrot, cucumbers, mushrooms, lettuce infected with browning leaves, and so on. On the other side of that island are the meats. BD's has tubs of chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, cod, scallops, shrimp (cooked), raw eggs, cod and tofu. A strange thing happens when you create a commune of raw animal flesh. Not only is the appearance a little disconcerting, but the smell is...well, let's just say it takes a pretty gutsy vegetarian to breach that meat blockade and plunder the tofu tub without tossing his or her cookies.
Yet this is perhaps a trivial dilemma, one that most likely has a solution. Somewhere. This fume is not necessarily related to the freshness of the meat or a lack thereof. Meats have smells--a scent derivative of wet doggishness. Concentrating large quantities of these distinctive fragrances next to each other unavoidably creates a somewhat putrid vapor. Maybe a deeper chill in the station would curtail that a bit, but then you run the risk of creating a tub full of meat Popsicles.
Perhaps it's best to simply take a deep breath and tong some fleshy scraps into your bowl. From there you can move on to the vegetable island, where you can add water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, snow peas, pineapple, chopped baby corn, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, diced tomato, pasta, broccoli and so on. Everything is vibrant and fresh. The only item here that gave us pause was the snow peas, whose green brilliance was pocked with scabby brown sores.
The next station harbors the sauces, spices and oils. Spices are dry, save for the cilantro. The setup includes several peppers, ginger, sesame seeds, mixed herbs, jerk spices, rosemary, dill, garlic and seasoned salt. The sauce/oil side of the island exposed a couple of glitches in BD's stir-fry system. Crocks of fluids were arranged in two staggered rows, which means that if you aren't fastidiously careful, ladle dribbles of whatnot will spill over into a crock of whatchamacallit. Of course, that doesn't really matter as much to you as it might to the next guy. But when you think of how many next guys have spilled olive oil--or worse--into the soy sauce, it starts to become a source of anxiety.
Which brings up another minor blemish: On one visit, the olive oil more resembled a knot of jellyfish than the fluid that greased Vito Corleone to prominence. Yet other than dribbles, this was the only crock gaffe. The rest of the sauces, which range from hoisin and sweet-sour to black bean and BD's Mojo, were diligent flavor enhancers.
From there, you take your bowl of distinctive whatnot and meat (tofu if you are a vegetarian) and present it to the cooks who sweat around a 7-foot griddle tossing the food around the hot metal surface with a pair of utensils that look like handled tongue depressors for Mongo Man. BD's claims that the evolution of the Mongolian grill as it is expressed in Plano (and Las Colinas) began centuries ago in--duh--Mongolia. There, Genghis Khan's hunting parties would gather on the banks of the Khan-Balik River and slice up meat and vegetables with their "razor-sharp swords" and cook them by searing them in their battle shields held over a raging fire.