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DonRocks

Little Sheep Hot Pot, Eden Center - Mongolian Hot Pot in Eden Center, Owned by Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, etc.), but You'd Never Know It

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DonRocks   

So, how big is Little Sheep Hot Pot?

Big. In fact, *really* big. It was really big five years ago.

Based in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China, Little Sheep Group posted 2 percent of all Chinese dining-out expenses in 2010. Think about that for a second.

And then, it got *REALLY* big.

In 2011, Little Sheep Group was sold to the massive, $10+ billion Yum! Brands, Inc. (the owners of Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc.) for $587 million, and it's now a wholly-owned subsidiary - they recently opened their first Little Sheep Hot Pot in Eden Center.

Ironically, you'd *never* know it was a giga-chain.

This restaurant is somethng like Mala Tang, except it has big, *big* money behind it. It's well-organized, family-friendly, and is designed for groups (definitely not the solo diner; unless you want a lot of leftovers).

Ordering involves a simple, 5-step checklist, where you check off your broth, your meat, your seafood, your vegetables, and your starch - whichever ones you want.

The broth is $2.95, and the extras are what cost the money. I *strongly* advise going with the "original" or the "Yin and Yang"; not the "Spicy" - it's too much.

I got the Yin and Yang ($2.95), and for my meat, ordered the Dry-Aged Spring Lamb ($8.95). Tong Ho (a massive pot of Chrysanthemum Blossoms, $4), and Fresh, Thick Noodle ($4). Since it's their soft opening, they threw in a generous little plate of Fatty Steak (Gratis).

Considering I made a quick decision, I was very happy with everything I ordered, but you can do even better if you look at the menu before you go, and add even more vegetables - maybe some large mushrooms, taro root, and the like. It's the meats and seafood which will really set you back; not the vegetables. My hot pot, including tax (but not tip) was $23.05, and it could have *easily* fed two people, with leftover broth - one person gets the same amount of broth as four people. That amount also included a Diet Coke with unlimited refills.

All the meats seem to be frozen, and the non-seafood in particular are those thin, Steak-Umm-like things - the real treasure here lies in the vegetables. You definitely want some starch (noodles, potatoes, etc.) to thicken the broth as it reduces. The base broth seems to contain every kind of pod, twig, root, spice, nut, and berry known to mankind (the picture below is of the broth before I put a single thing in it - you can *easily* see that unless you're a bonafide chili-head, you don't want the entire thing to be spicy).

Here are some pictures to give you a better idea of what to expect. Do not let the "chain" aspect of this throw you off - it's perfectly fine hot pot, and it was packed this afternoon for a late lunch on President's Day.

IMG_3095.jpgIMG_3094.jpgIMG_3091.jpgIMG_3092.jpgIMG_3093.jpg

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My brother introduced @MichaelBDC and I to Little Sheep Hot Pot when we were in San Diego last summer. We had already eaten a lot that day but needed to get dinner so this was a good spot for something that would not sit heavy in our stomachs. We knew it was a chain but didn't know it was affiliated with culinary icons such as Taco Bell until reading Don's review. Regardless, we had a good time and enjoyed our food. We ordered a whole bowl of spicy both, which was definitely overkill as Don mentioned. Loved the vegetables and the egg noodles. The meat and seafood we ordered were fine but I think we subconsciously stayed away from the "heavier" items given we weren't particularly hungry.

Wonder how it compares to Mala Tang given our preference for dining at local establishments rather than national or international chains. I love hot pot but we don't usually go out for it here in DC.

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DonRocks   
1 hour ago, eatruneat said:

Wonder how it compares to Mala Tang given our preference for dining at local establishments rather than national or international chains. I love hot pot but we don't usually go out for it here in DC.

I've been to Mala Tang a couple of times, and while it's quite good, I think Little Sheep might be more interesting right now - the broths are certainly more complex, and there's more to choose from. That said, I really don't think the choice of meats - which are all those thin, frozen, processed things - is all that important. Things like yams, oyster mushrooms, taro root, potato noodles, etc. are what will keep the cost down and make the meal both interesting and healthy - you could easily create a $60-80 bowl of soup if you loaded it up with meats (these frozen meats are fine once they're cooked down in the broth, but it really doesn't matter if it's "USDA Choice Ribeye" or "Lamb Shoulder," not from what I could tell - I walked around a couple of times, and looked at what other people were having, and I'm convinced the vegetables and starches make the already-interesting broth even more interesting (keep in mind that the starches thicken the broth). Listen to eatruneat and either get the milky-white broth (which seems like what you find at Gom Tang E) or the Yin-Yang which is half-and-half; the darker side of the Yin-Yang is loaded, and I mean *loaded* with red hot chili peppers, and I don't mean the band. When you do get meats, get fattier ones, since the fat distributes into the broth (which subsequently penetrates the other things like noodles and mushrooms), and makes everything even more complex. Refer again to the bowl of Tong Ho which I photographed - that was only $4!

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DanielK   
21 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Things like yams, oyster mushrooms, taro root, potato noodles, etc. are what will keep the cost down and make the meal both interesting and healthy - you could easily create a $60-80 bowl of soup if you loaded it up with meats 

Or you could go to Riverside Hot Pot in Gaithersburg, where the quality of broths (6 different to choose from) and ingredients (13 meats, 13 seafood, 23 veggies, plus dumplings, spring rolls, etc.) is quite high, and pay $24 for AYCE.

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All hot pots that I've ever (including at home hot pots) had uses frozen meats.  My understanding is that you can't shave the meat that thinly unless it was froze to start with.

Hot pot really isn't conducive to single dining.  Given the size of the restaurant dishes, I'd say 3-4 would be better. 

 

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Deac   
18 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

All hot pots that I've ever (including at home hot pots) had uses frozen meats.  My understanding is that you can't shave the meat that thinly unless it was froze to start with.

Hot pot really isn't conducive to single dining.  Given the size of the restaurant dishes, I'd say 3-4 would be better. 

It's the same with other thinly shaved meat dishes, like beef carpaccio. Might not be frozen all the way, but enough to firm up so you can get paper thin slices.

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stevem   

I'm trying to figure out if we ordered wrong tonight. We got the half and half bowl. The spicy broth was, well, spicy. 

Nothing else really has much flavor - lamb, shrimp, mushrooms, etc.

The process was fun and my $4 IPA was nice, but I don't feel like I need to rush back.

 

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peasoup   
5 hours ago, stevem said:

I'm trying to figure out if we ordered wrong tonight. We got the half and half bowl. The spicy broth was, well, spicy. 

Nothing else really has much flavor - lamb, shrimp, mushrooms, etc.

The process was fun and my $4 IPA was nice, but I don't feel like I need to rush back.

I'd guess you didn't order wrong. Their ingredient quality is not terribly high.

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