There’s just a certain feel to some restaurants that make them endearing. Lee’s Mongolian BBQ is one of those places. It’s been a go-to place for me for a long time. The restaurant has been around longer than me. The first time my dad and I went there together was years ago. During that first time he told me about how the place hadn’t changed. He used to eat there when he was a teenager. Any place that has stood the test of time for that long deserves some recognition.
It’s most likely because they have figured out how to produce a good product, and Lee’s Mongolian BBQ has. This place could very well be considered a “dive.” Located on the east side of Washington Blvd in Ogden, UT, Lee’s is hard to miss with the bright neon signs announcing it’s name. As you approach the driveway to the parking lot, which is located on the south side of the restaurant, go slowly. Washington Blvd has been repaved so many times that nowadays there is a huge chasm that used to be the gutter. Lower cars will scrape. Mine does, unless I approach at an angle.
Once you step inside, without greeting you, a member of the staff will promptly ask you how many people are in your group and you’ll immediately be seated at what seems like a random spot. No need to sit down at this point however. Simply deposit your items by your table and proceed to the empty bowls where the line begins. Your waitress (it’s always a she) will intercept you and ask what you would like to drink and if you would like any eggrolls. I’ve eaten there countless times and only once have the egg rolls been less than amazing.
Next you select your meat. All of it is frozen solid in thin, curly, slices. It’s providence looks questionable but just go with it. Beef, turkey, chicken, and krab are available in addition to a few other meats that are available upon request at an additional charge. This is where you’ll be able to tell the locals and regulars from the outsiders. The regulars, or those in the know, will pile on the meat and then use the bottom of each other’s bowls to smash it down, thereby allowing more room for additional items.
Proceed down the line and pile on the veggies and noodles. I save the noodles for last simply because they balance the best. The higher you can get it, the cooler you are.
After the veggies and noodles, you are presented with about 10 different oils and liquids that you use to flavor your bowl. I personally love the lobster sauce and sesame oil. I put about 5 or 6 scoops of the lobster sauce and 3 scoops of the sesame oil, along with a bit of vinegar, soy sauce, sweet whatever. My wife likes hers with plenty of curry and garlic. Needless to say, even though we might put a lot of the same ingredients in ours, the difference in the oils and sauces that go in at the end make our bowls tastes completely different. Sometimes I get a bit carried away and mine starts to overflow. At that point I just hope and pray that the people in front of me won’t take long.
You then hand your bowl over to the highly trained individual running the BBQ, which according to their website, is designed to simulate a Mongol shield over a roaring fire, the way it was done back in time of Genghis Khan. Nevertheless, it’s a huge, now black, metal surface that, I would guess, is extremely well seasoned. It literally takes about a minute for the cooking to take place.
The result is a wonderful bowl of your own creation. Mine is usually overflowing with tomatoes (which keep their heat very well), pineapples (which are canned), mushrooms, and more recently, green onions in addition to the noodles. The ingredients aren’t of the highest caliber but everything is going to be cooked in highly flavorful oils so you probably wouldn’t be able to tell anyways. You’ll know if you were able to pile your bowl high enough if the BBQer can’t fit all of it into one bowl and instead hands you two of them.
The rest of the dinner consists of rice that’s usually too dry, egg drop soup that does not taste good unless its piping hot, and flatbread which they have recently changed from being a flakey, sesame, fry bread that you could use to form a pocket into which you stuff some of the contents of your bowl (yum!) to a piece of a baked bread that doesn’t compare. The owner said the change was made because his clientele was getting older and more health conscious.
Either way, no one goes to Lee’s for the anything else but the main event. It’s marvelous. One of my many comfort foods that I could literally eat anytime. Leftovers are wonderful, if there are any.