A lot can happen in a few years on the bay area Asian dining scene. Ever since I wrote about one of the very fist Mongolian-style Hot Pot place in the San Francisco Bay area – Chef King’s in San Mateo in 2004, there has been a couple of new places that sells the same. In fact, they are the bay area representatives of one of the most successful Mongolian hot pot chains from China – Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. They have opened the first branch here in Union City and a second branch in San Mateo.
The first Little Sheep in America, the Union City location took over the former location of a a couple of failed restaurants. One of them being Szechuan Home (漁溶人家), a once popular and one of the earlier and best chain of Sichuan style restaurants that are no longer. They have removed the curse of this location by relocating the front entrance from facing the south corner of Alvarado Niles and Decoto intersection to the north corner, facing the Marina Market. Of course, their good food probably also helped.
As is popular at Mongolian hot pot restaurants, we chose the yuenyang pot (鴛鴦鍋), or the half-and-half spicy and regular pot. The hot pot soup base at Mongolian hot pots are flavored like Taiwanese style hot pots and unlike Japanese style shabu shabu’s. Most of the soup base broth are medicinal and has a wonderful fragrant flavor. The spicy version is similar to the regular medicinal broth but with extra kicks of whole garlics and red hot spicy chili oil with Sichuan peppercorns for the “mala” taste.
The fancier version of the beef were of good quality. Though the meat is cut thicker than the traditional paper-thin Mongolian shabu shabu style meats, it still tasted tender after dipping into the broth for a few seconds. The medicinal broth really has a wonderful, deep flavor that comes from a mix of lots of herbs and spices.
The pork was cut more thinly and did not have any of the bad pork smells. It tastes a little less to cook and also had good flavor and tenderness. The spicy broth has the same wonderful flavor with the extra spicy kick that will warm your heart and stomach.
One can also order a lot of vegetable accompaniments such as tofu, tong hao (a must for hot pots), mushrooms, etc. Of course, all sorts of seafood and fish and various fish balls and meat balls are also available.
One minor problem we faced was the first time the tofu came, some of the pieces had a sour flavor indicating that they were not fresh. The waiters did take them away and gave us a new plate. So watch out for any un-fresh items if you visit.
Overall, Xiao Fei Yang Hot Pot has made attracted a huge following in the bay area with its huge variety of items, fair price, and of course it’s very good soup base. However, it is not the only game in town. In Newark, Ninji Mala Hot Pot still serves up a great Taiwanese style mala hot pot. The old Chef King has re-transformed itself into Chef Ding and is still serving Mongolian hot pots. In addition, there are still old standbys like the all-you-can-eat hot pot Coriya in Milpitas and Matsusono in Burlingame. But for the most authentic Mongolian hot pot experience, Little Fat Sheep is hard to beat.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (小肥羊火鍋)34396 Alvarado Niles Rd
(In the Marina Market center)
Union City, CA 94587
(510) 675-9919215 S Ellsworth Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401