Mongolian for the masses

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

The “Half & Half” is a peaceful compromise for friends who like it mild and spicy.

The “Half & Half” is a peaceful compromise for friends who like it mild and spicy.

photo by stephanie stiavetti

Notable dishes: kobe beef combo, half & half pot
Good for: A fun family soup party

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

7271 Franklin Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95823

(916) 228-4599

Like most restaurants off Florin Road, the newest location of the international chain Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is nestled in a small, unassuming shopping center that may miss your attention. It opened in August 2017 and quickly amassed “line around the block” status, especially on weekends, when late-evening fans routinely wait 30-45 minutes for dinner.

While the format is your standard hot-pot experience—chopped ingredients dropped into boiling broth—Little Sheeps’ menu changes throughout the week. A weekend visit presents diners with a vast selection of a la carte items to design your own soup, but weeknights will get you the standard menu plus a selection of enormous, colorful combos that are almost as exciting to look at as they are to eat.

For my first visit, I ordered the Kobe Beef Combo in the original mild broth ($13.99, plus $3.90 for broth) and left so joyful I would have happily died in the parking lot, just so I could haunt the kitchen for the rest of eternity. The beef was tender and rich, even after its long stint in the boiling broth, and the veggies, tofu, mushrooms and other combo ingredients were equally fresh.

The original mild broth is ultra-savory and full of free-floating Asian herbs and spices. It’s also very salty. Dinner here will likely put you over your daily sodium limit and then some. Servers stop by to top off your broth whenever it’s running low, so there’s never a shortage. In fact, you could easily take home a half-gallon of soup after dinner.

I brought a spice-loving friend for my second visit, so we ordered the “Half & Half” ($7.90), a huge pot split down the middle so that it can accommodate spicy broth on one side and mild on the other. She normally has a pro-level spice tolerance, but the hot broth turned her every possible shade of red and left her gasping in her seat. After seeing my friend’s reaction, our server let on that we could have ordered it “half spicy.”

Let this be your warning: Do not order the hot broth unless you’ve got a Herculean spice tolerance or a Teflon mouth.

The menu also offers a selection of noodles for your soup, and as a noodle lover, I tried two different kinds. The potato starch noodles were a little too rubbery, even after an hour in the hot broth, but the fresh, handmade ramen noodles were excellently tender and flavorful. They are so good, in fact, that they’re worth ordering an extra helping to take home with your leftover broth.

Little Sheeps’ selection of sides and desserts are hit or miss. I loved the lamb dumplings ($7.25) on my first visit, but they weren’t as flavorful the second time around. That said, leftover dumplings are lovely the next day, poached in any extra broth you bring home. The pork-shrimp dumplings were pretty bland, and the Phoenix Yolk Buns ($3.95) were grainy more than anything else.

Little Sheep is perfect for a fun dinner on a chilly night, plus it’s kid-friendly. The combos are where it shines, so I recommend a weeknight visit to guarantee they’re on the menu.

Overall, it’s well worth the drive down Highway 99.