Mongolian Hot Pot (one of a chain) in Old Town Pasadena.
From the outside, Little Sheep Hot Pot looks like…I kid you not, a 50s Diner. That’d be the odd part. In fact, I’m decently sure that’s what was in this space before Little Sheep came to town.
Actually now that I think about it, Little Sheep has been in town for a while. It is part of an international chain that’s mostly based in the United States and Canada. I say mostly because I think there are just a smidgen more locations here than in Asia. A smidgen.
But step inside, and things get chic and modern in a hurry. This is definitely someplace you can bring a date if you wanted to.
Hot Pot itself is something that’s may be a bit new to some. It’s new to me too, but I’m glad its starting to catch on. Places like Hai Di Lao are already all over the San Gabriel Valley, and its just a matter of time before you can get it on the West side in some form or another.
I guess you can say that Hot Pot is similar to Shabu-Shabu (translates as Swish-Swish). The menu is comprised of thinly sliced meats which you dump in a boiling concoction of some kind, and then to go town. Shaba Shabu is a bit more…how should I put this…water based than Hot Pot. Granted the water is seasoned and flavored, but it’s mostly water.
The difference between Mongolian Hot Pot and Chinese Hot Pot…I’m…well…not sure. Is there a difference? Either way, you’re getting a mess of vegetables of your choice, noodles of your choice, and of course meats of your choice to dunk in that broth.
There’s also the…well…fixin’s bar that you have to get familiar with. Shabu Shabu usually comes with it’s own pre-made selection of sauces for you to dunk your cooked preparations into, but with Hot Pot, you make ‘em yourself. You’ll usually find a free fixin’s bar with Onions, Cilantro, Ponzu sauce, Chili Sauce, Peanut Sauce, Soy Sauce, what have you. You take what you want in a little cup, mix it all together and there’s your sauce for the evening.
Hot Pot is a soup stock, for lack of a better word. If you were to take the Shabu Shabu broth home, you…probably wouldn’t want to eat it. This stuff you might. The stock at Hai Di Lao was Tomato and Onion. This was a milky Mongolian based recipe with nuts, onions and chilis in it. You can go hotter is with their spicy stock. And, if you can’t make up your mind, they’ll give you a Ying and Yang shaped bowl so you can have one of each.
Little Sheep Hot Pot is not as fancy or high end as Hai Di Lao, but it is nice. I would say it’s a bit more comfortable and causal, where Hai Di Lao is more nightclub. Just depends on what your mood is. Also the meats and vegetables can come either in half or full orders, so it just depends on how hungry you are. If in doubt, talk to the waitstaff. They’ll steer you right.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Oh my goodness, did I have a meal here.
Well, I got the Supreme Lamb Shoulder, sliced razor thin. I just imagine that Lamb would have been the thing on the steppes of Mongolia. And it was delicious. Might need to have that again.
I followed that up with a big basket (a full order) of Baby Bok Choy. Don’t worry, it looks bigger in the basket than it will after you’re done cooking it up. I also got some straight ahead Potatoes. Loved the Bok Choy. Liked the Potatoes. (Potatoes absorb much more of the water of the pot, so when they’re done cooking, they’re really freaking hot.)
I coupled all that with the Fresh Thick Noodle, which is the House Noodle. You can try Udon, but I wanted something a bit more…Mongolian? They cooked up nice, and were actually quite flavorful on their own. Excellent stuff.
I decided to carry through the Lamb theme for the evening with Spicy Mongolian Lamb Skewers. Also delicious.
I just got to remind you, I got the Spicy variety. And to my tongue they weren’t spicy at all, but to someone else…five alarm fire.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: If this is your first time trying Hot Pot, don’t be proud. Make sure you ask a lot of questions. How much to get? What do you recommend, especially when it comes to the Fixin’s Bar and how long items should cook in the broth. There are signs but in case you don’t see them or just want the numbers hammered home. Ask.
Also bear in mind that we’re talking about boiling soup stocks. They do boil up and out of the pot, a bit of a mess can be made. They never touched by clothes, but occasionally reaching to grab a bit of Lamb or a Potato that had sunk to the bottom of the pot got al little…burny…be careful.
PARKING: First things first, check the Old Town Pasadena Parking and Valet Guide. But the closest Parking Structure is the Schoolhouse Structure between Fair Oaks and Raymond. You can also try to park with the meters along Pasadena’s Central Park (Also between Fair Oaks and Raymond), but that also involves a further walk. When leaving, head out toward Fair Oaks, and the restaurant will be staring at you across the street.
Little Sheep Hot Pot
45 South Fair Oaks Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Tel: (626) 229-0888
Monday-Thursday: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:30 – 9:30 pm
Friday: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:30 – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 11:30 am – 9:30 pm