If ever a place could promise to please practically everybody, it's Lee's Mongolian Bar-B-Q, a downtown Ogden institution.
It's simply the nature of Mongolian barbecue: get your bowl, fill it with the raw ingredients of your choice and watch as it's cooked lickety-split, then served up steaming hot.
Of course, Lee's goes beyond basic Mongolian barbecue with its cheery service, welcoming style and quality ingredients. Our grandmotherly waitress took great pains to ensure we had a good time, even bringing my demanding 3-year-old three refills of pale, mild egg-drop soup and doing everything else she could to ensure that our group of four adults and five kids was satisfied.
Lee's sports a truly diverse clientele, from rugged trucker-looking types and people winding down after work to hungry soldiers and families with young kids like ours. In our group, the kids had a wonderful time, starting with going down the line to choose among the bounty of fresh food on offer.
First come five kinds of meat (pork, chicken, turkey, beef and crab) in thin-sliced, frozen curls. I tasted the chicken, pork and beef and enjoyed the lean juiciness of all three. Then come the veggies, trays full of chilled-fresh carrots, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, celery, sprouts, mushrooms, pineapple and both green and white onions. There are cold cooked noodles to heap on top, as well, and I do mean heap they'll let you pile that bowl as high as you possibly can.
And last is the master stroke: beladled pots of distinctive but uniformly tasty sauces. Diners can ladle on soy, vinegar, sweet, lobster and curry sauces, as well as vegetable or sesame oil and chopped garlic. Or, and I recommend this option, follow the posted "recipe" for the house sauce, which contains a bit of everything. No matter what you do, be generous in saucing your food to ensure great flavor later.
Then it's on to the huge drum-like grill, where a practiced cook dumps each bowl, expertly swirls the contents back and forth, over and around, and then scoops the whole steaming mess with a flick of the wrist back into the bowl. It can take longer to pick the ingredients for a portion of Mongolian barbecue than it does to cook it.
But when we got it back to the table, the results were delicious. The house sauce has a deep, complex flavor, with infusions of sour, tangy, sweet, fishy, salty and smooth. In my own bowl, I had the pork with carrots, cabbage, sprouts, mushrooms and green onions, with house sauce on top. The whole thing was brown, rich and savory.
With the meal come bowls of egg-drop soup and generous baskets of Chinese pocket bread. Some patrons of Lee's like to open it up like a pita and stuff their barbecue inside to make a sort of sandwich. I preferred to pull off pieces of the flat, crisp, sesame-crusted bread and let its tender insides soak up the sauce.
We also tried Lee's fried potstickers, crisp-tender and stuffed to plumpness with spiced ground meat and veggies. They're tasty alone or with the accompanying sweet sauce.
In a sort of miracle, every child at our table liked his or her food. There was no complaining, just slurping and enjoying.
Come to think of it, that applies to the adults, too.Lunch: One trip, $5.75-$8.85 depending on type of meat. Dinner: one trip $8.19, all you can eat $9.49, kids 2-7 $4.75 (all you can eat), kids 8-10 $5.75 (all you can eat).
Lee's Mongolian Bar-B-Q
Where: 2866 Washington Blvd., Ogden
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Saturday, noon-3 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.
Friday, 5-9:30 p.m.
Saturday, 4:30-9:30 p.m.
Payment: Checks, credit cards acceptedPhone: 801-621-9120
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org