MANY SAVANNAHIANS over the years have lamented the closure of a certain Mongolian restaurant over on Hodgson Memorial, sadly demolished and replaced with a funeral home.
Any time the place was mentioned it was sure to cause sighs, former devotees giving voice to yearnings for the all-you-can-eat, make-it-yourself offerings, and I’ve actually noticed a glistening eye or two.
Hard act to follow.
In case you aren’t in on the secret, let me clue you in: wide variety of meats, frozen, sliced paper-thin, in rolled stacks along the bar, followed by array of fresh veggies conveniently cut bite-size chunks and a multitude of flavorful sauces to douse your choices in---hand over your mountain of goodies to the Chinese grill-cooks and, before your very eyes, your choices are grilled on a humongous flat iron, smoking with flavor and fresh as morning dew, all you can eat, for around $10.
When news started circulating ‘round the city of a new joint opening on Hodgson Memorial, just behind Oglethorpe Mall, many eager hearts were pounding, many eager tongues moistened lips in anticipation of the delights to come...and so it was, Ha Hot Mongolian Grill opened recently to much aplomb—the parking lot was packed from the very first night.
This is a new endeavor, brought to Savannah by Fujianese Chinese (as are most Chinese restaurants here)—there are no Mongolians in sheepskin coats and swooping moustaches hiding behind the kitchen doors, I assure you (darn it!).
The former place, so beloved by the local populace, closed its doors nearly 20 years ago, and in that time, well, the dollar has weakened and prices have taken an uncertain and somewhat scary road.
Here’s the deal: Once seated, your waitress will hand you a (rather small) aluminum bowl and point you towards the two buffets—meats on one side, veggies and seasonings on the other.
Pile up whatever amount of meat you want in the bottom of the bowl, place a dainty piece of deli paper over it, then top with veggies; seasonings must be poured each into their own little black cups (no more mixing and blending directly on the dish).
You set the main bowl and the little cups on the tray at the cook station, choose your ‘starch’ (rice, noodles, potatoes, etc), tell the cook whether you want it separate or cooked with the food, then grab your numbered card and return to your table.
While you wait you can snack on a lettuce and cucumber salad—the pretty same bland mix as most Japanese grills serve—with ginger dressing, or a bowl of thin soup. By the time you choose your drink and finish your pre-meal snack, your grilled dish is brought to you in a big red bowl.
This is $10.95 for dinner, $8.95 for lunch—you want all-u-can-eat? Pay $4.50 extra and have at it. A pretty impressive selection of sushi is also available from the menu, or choose traditional “Chinese” appetizers like Spring roll or chicken wings.
Mention should be made of the variety of goods being offered up on the buffet, however: lamb (so rarely seen in the South), beef, pork, chicken, turkey chunks, sausage slices, eggs (raw and boiled), tofu (fresh and fried pieces) and plenty of fresh veggies to delight any vegetarian. I do like the set-up with the dry spices: several bowls with little flowered spoons and spices both Western and Eastern.
There’s also a caveat offered here to those who think that $4.50 for a “bottomless bowl” covers everything: what you choose, you eat there, no to-go boxes allowed unless you want to pay an extra $4.99—and NO sharing, folks! That means YOU, mom!
And you two girlfriends, one of whom just ordered sushi—ha! Those waitresses have sharp eyes and yes, they will politely inform you of the rules if you are not wise enough to read them on the menu!
It’s definitely worth a visit, and though the prices may seem a tad over the limit for what you get, I would imagine that depends on just how high you can fill that bowl.
I saw plenty of hefty Americans in there with their other hand literally holding down a tower of goodies to hand to the chefs (usually 3-4 on hand to cook), who took the bowls with an unsurprised and patient smile.
Ai ya, you guys! Don’t be cheap! Just pay the $4.50!