huHot Mongolian Grill


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My brother and I met at huHot for lunch today with my 5 year old nephew.  I’ve been very curious about huHot since seeing the sign go up back in November.

We arrived right about noon and there were plenty of seats available.  As our visit progressed, the place got busier and busier and was about 80% full by the time we left.

The menu is pretty simple (link to menu is at the end of this post) – the main deal being the Mongolian BBQ (MBBQ).  Besides the MBBQ there is a selection of appetizers, salads & deserts.  Prices for the MBBQ are $8.49 for weekday lunch, $9.49 for lunch on the weekends and $11.99 for dinner.

After getting seated, we placed our drink orders, got instructions from the server on how to navigate the MBBQ and then headed over to the ingredient tables to get our food.

At the beginning of the ingredient table, you get a bowl to put all of your stuff into.  If you aren’t careful, your bowl may be overflowing before you get to the end of the line.  There is a sign saying to take one bowl – but it might be more efficient for bigger eaters to fill 2 at a time.  Even though your bowl looks very full, by the time it is cooked, the volume reduces to a more manageable size.

For lunch the protein selection was chicken, steak, pork, sausage and “Krab” (yeah the fake stuff) the online menu lists more items than we saw – perhaps at dinner there are more choices.  All of the meat selections were sliced very thinly and several were frozen solid.  Next down the line were 3 different types of noodles.  At the end was a large selection of veggies.  Everything on the buffet looked good – nice, fresh and appealing.

After the line for the meat & veggies, you cross over to the sauce line where there is a selection of at least 12 sauces to choose from.  There are different heat levels and sauce bases available to choose from – for example, there is a teriyaki sauce, a green curry sauce, a Thai peanut sauce and even a fajita sauce for those that may not want Asian flavors.  The sauces are described pretty well on little signs and the heat level is indicated based on the number (or lack of) flames.  If the ready-made sauces don’t suit, they also have a section of the sauce bar dedicated to sauce ingredients so you can make up your own.  Our server recommended that you mix the sauces which is what we did.  The recommended number of ladles of sauce is 5 to 7 per bowl.

After saucing up, you head over to the line for the grill where the items in your bowl are dumped out onto the large circular grill for cooking.  There were anywhere between 3 and 6 cooks circling the grill at any given time and they did a good job of keeping track of whose pile was whose.   Once you make it around the grill, you get your food back on a plate.  At the end of the grill, there is one more little station where you can doctor your plate up a bit more with crunchy toppings like fried noodles, chopped peanuts, sunflower seeds or perhaps scoop up a big pile of wasabi if you like.

Steamed rice comes with each MBBQ and tortillas are also available if you want to make wraps.  Fried rice is an extra $1.50 charge per bowl.  Before we went to navigate the MBBQ our server said he would bring our steamed rice when we returned with our food.  Sure enough when we got back with our first plate, he dropped by to say he would be right back with our rice.  However, he didn’t come right back.  We had finished our first plate before he finally came back with the rice and an apology for taking so long.

My first trip had some chicken, beef and sausage, along with some noodles & veggies.  I put on probably 4 or 5 different sauces on that trip and ended up with a rather tasty plate of food when it was done.  I didn’t get enough of the hotter sauces on my first trip.  On the second trip, I stuck with just the beef and added just a few select veggies since I didn’t want another big plate.  The second trip sauce mix leaned more on the spicier sauces.

I have to say that the food tasted really good on both plates.  I felt like a great chef since I assembled this goodness myself.  I think the tender meat, fresh ingredients and a good sauce selection was probably more responsible for the good taste though.  Since this is an “All You Can Eat” place, if you do end up with something that you don’t like, you can just put it aside and get back in line for some other combination.

While the food tasted good, not everything was dandy.

One minor grip was that the ladles used to put the sauce in your bowl are too long and it is difficult to make it from the sauce container to your bowl without spilling on the counter.

The second thing I didn’t really care for is the appearance of the grill area – they do a good job keeping up with scraping off the top of the grill, but down below the grill is a shelf with slots where the spatulas are stored when not being used.  Stuff from the top of the grill falls down into this shelf.  The scrapings from the spatulas also end up here and it doesn’t look very appetizing.  I know that the grills in kitchens that you can’t see are probably far worse – but the grill is part of the show and really needs to look good at all times.

The third and grossest thing was one of the cooks at the grill.  He was wearing the standard issue black t-shirt, but with the addition of a coating of animal hair (probably cat) sticking all over the back of it.  The cooks have their back to you most of the time so we had plenty of time to stare at that cat hair while all the cooking was going on.  My brother said he would post a comment about what happened when he pointed this out to one of the managers.  I expect that this was a one-time sort of thing – but then again it did happen while I was there.

My final comments will be about the process at huHot itself.  I didn’t care for the 3 line process for getting your food.   Besides having to get in line 3 times, you are standing the whole time while you wait.  I was curious how long it took from beginning to end to navigate the MBBQ so I timed a random person in line.  It took just over 12 minutes for Mr. Random Person get all the way through.  Now, it was pretty busy when I put the stopwatch to it, but if you go at a popular time of day I would think you’d have a similar experience.  Figuring you will want to go through twice and that’s almost ½ hour in line.  Also, if you are a family with small children or in a group out for some food & fun, unless you all go through the line at the same time, you will spend a significant part of your time away from the others at your table.  When I described how huHot works to my wife, she said she wouldn’t want to wait in line to have someone cook her food.

The inside of the restaurant is very nice and contemporary.  It reminded me of a P.F. Chang’s that I visited once in St. Paul.  There was a post on the forum that indicated over $700,000 was spent on the remodel from the J. Bucks days in this space.  There is a mix of tables & booths, and a pretty large bar area with tall tables surrounding it.  The restroom was clean.

huHot is on the east side of the mall and so you share parking with everyone else at the mall.  You also get to experience the weird traffic patterns on that side of the mall.

Service was ok (except for the rice thing) and our drinks were kept full.  Our server was very nice and did a good job explaining how to work the huHot lines.  Take out containers are not available due to the AYCE format.

I know that this line thing is the whole idea about MBBQ and I’ll give huHot credit for trying to make things as efficient as possible – like how the ingredient and sauce tables can be accessed from both sides – but the grill is a one line deal.  The other plus at huHot is that you get to choose exactly what you want and get it hot and freshly cooked.

I really did like the food and thought that the price was pretty fair considering the quality ingredients, AYCE aspect, and nice décor.  I actually expected the prices to be much higher.

I would not go back during peak times because I really don’t want to deal with the whole line thing.  I would consider going back at a time of day that wasn’t as busy so the wait in lines would be minimal.
East side of the Battlefield Mall at 2825 South Glenstone – (417) 882-0300

Corporate Website

Springfield Menu

Link to Health Inspections

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