Pick and pull

Zai cooks up a customer’s hand-picked concoction of meats and veggies.

Zai cooks up a customer’s hand-picked concoction of meats and veggies.

Photo By David Robert

The big attraction here is the Mongolian barbecue. Mongolian barbecue, for the uninitiated, is great fun because you select your own meats, veggies, spices and sauces, and then the chef stir-fries it right there in front of you. It’s perfect for picky eaters who like to personally approve every tree of broccoli. Wong’s also has a buffet, which is a hit-and-miss affair; the Chinese is better than average, the sushi is not so good, and the salad bar is strange.

Mongolian barbecue can be difficult for the novice. You balance out your meat (chicken, beef or pork) with your veggies (mushrooms, broccoli, bean sprouts …), sauces and spices. You then hand your perfectly composed bowl over to the chef, who cooks it up for you. It can be difficult to know how much of each ingredient to add (especially since the spices and sauces are not labeled), and it takes awhile to develop a knack for it. Even at the end of our meal, I didn’t really feel like I was maximizing the taste potential. However, a sense of personal culinary experimentation is part of the appeal of Mongolian barbecue.

The sight of tubs full of uncooked meat can be a little off-putting to weak-hearted vegetarians—like my girlfriend, Danielle, who gasped at the sight. Luckily, our friend Ali, an experienced Mongoloid diner, was there to guide us through the experience.

The barbecue is included in the price of the all-you-can-eat buffet dinner, $10.99. This is a good deal because this is the type of food you can eat a lot of without feeling full. However, proceed through the buffet with caution: The Chinese dishes, wonton soup, sweet and sour chicken, and the like, are pretty good, better than you might expect at a buffet, however, the sushi was, as Danielle put it, “a little funky.” And, no, she did not mean that it would make your mouth move like Parliament makes your booty shake, but rather that the odor and taste were off-putting.

The salad bar portion of the buffet was weird, a seemingly random smattering of fruits and veggies. Iceberg lettuce, oranges, canned peaches, olives, Jell-O and ranch dressing do not make any kind of salad I would like to eat, and that’s about all there is to be found. There are also desserts, which include coconut pudding and distinctly un-Asian pastries and cream cheese strudels.

The buffet suffers from the basic problem of all such establishments—namely, the “I wonder how long this has been sitting here” quandary. There is a lot of food on display and, when we visited, not too many diners, so it’s hard not to wonder how long different items have taken up residency.

But, despite the issues with the buffet, Wong’s might be worth a visit just for the Mongolian barbecue. It’s good for picky eaters, including people on diets that force them to avoid basic necessities of life (I won’t be surprised when someone comes out with a low-water diet) because I’m sure you can just have them cook up a nice bowl of meat, if you like. It’s also perfect for those who like their dining experiences to be interactive.