Because of the recent cold weather, my wife Jing had been having a taste of hot pot. We'd noticed the Little Lamb Mongolian Hot Pot restaurant on our last trip to the mall with all the Chinese restaurants at the corner of Alvarado Niles and Decoto Road in Union City. Saturday night, we decided to check it out.
We got there around 6PM, and there was a line out the door. It took about 20 minutes to get in. At first, we thought this might have been because it was a holiday weekend or because we arrived at prime dinnertime, but from talking to others there, it seems this goes on every night. I can attest that by the time we left, the line was no shorter than the line was when we got there. It did seem that some people called ahead and made reservations, which is what we will do next time.
Little Lamb is apparently a branch of a successful chain in China. The Chinese characters are "Little Fat Lamb". Seems they also use the name "Little Sheep".
There was some discussion of this on Chowhound prior to its opening in Union City:
Here is a link to the company web site:
It looked like nearly everyone in the restaurant was Chinese, and I think all the non-Chinese looking people I saw there were with Chinese-looking people, but I don't think it's the kind of place you need to speak Chinese to get the right dishes or anything.
When we were seated, we were given a paper listing all the dishes. We checked off the ones we wanted and handed it to our server. It was mostly ingredients for the hot pot, but there were a few appetizers as well.
We opted for the "half-half" hot pot - one side spice and the other not. At our server’s suggestion, we tasted the broth before adding anything to it. It was more seasoned than the typical Beijing hot pot and tasted nice just as a soup. There was lots of garlic, and I saw some ingredients I wouldn't have expected, such as cloves. The lamb we got was high quality and paper-thin and only took seconds to cook. Because the broth was so seasoned, they did not bring any sauce to go with the meat. We also got fish balls, beef tendon balls, tofu, thick rice noodles, mushrooms, winter melon. Every thing was fresh and tasty. Jing said that next time she wouldn't get the beef tendon because the lamb was enough meat and she wouldn't get the winter melon, because it kind of just melted into the soup. Everything else was great. I want to try the fresh shrimp next time. They had hand pulled noodles on the menu, but they were out of these when we ordered.
The only big miss for me was the corn pancakes we ordered as an appetizer. These were sweet, thin, and, for me, a weird compliment to hot pot, though Jing liked them. We saw someone at a nearby table gets some kind of sesame cake that looked good, and I think we'll order that next time.
After the meal, they brought a plate of sweet honeydew melon. (Our 3-year-old daughter was disappointed that there were no fortune cookies!)
I should mention that the service we had was extremely good. Our waiter was very professional and explained everything carefully. He was also very attentive. The staff managing the long line also was very good, bringing hot tea to the waiting customers and taking special care with a pregnant woman on the line.
We left quite happy and satisfied. Jing really misses the hot pot from China, and this is now her favorite hot pot in the Bay Area, supplanting Old Mandarin in San Francisco. Jing had been wanting to go back to China for a visit, and one reason had was that she missed good hot pot. On our way home, she said that maybe doesn't need to go back to China any more.
Little Lamb Mongolian Hot Pot
34396 Alvarado Niles Road (at Decoto)
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