Little Sheep in Montreal

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After reading a restaurant review about a Chinese chain of restaurants called “Little Sheep” specializing in Mongolian hot pot, I decided to check out the first Montreal location . We arrived at the Chinatown eatery smack dab at the corner of de La Gauchetiere and Clark streets around 1:30 and the place was packed with the weekend lunchtime crowd. The upstairs locale appears to be completely renovated. It’s spacious, bright, and modern with plenty of comfortable seating. The difference from other restaurants is that set in the center of each table is a flat glass cook top with digital controls. All around the restaurant are nice touches of mongolian type decorations including a line of little sheep across the top of the refrigerated buffet. The staff appear to be all mandarin speaking and so do many of the customers but it is afterall, a global chain from China. We waited a bit for our table and soon we were seated and ready to get down to the hot potting.

So the way it works is that you get to choose from 3 different broths. Since our palates were not quite daring enough for the spicy broth, we decided not to go for the pot with the separator that allows you to keep two different broths, well, separate. The broth, shown here, comes with a variety of things floating around in it which are supposedly very healthful Chinese herbs. Not quite sure what they are and didn’t venture to taste them but the broth was quite tasty so whatever they made the broth with, it’s good. Once you’ve selected your broth, the waiter tells you that you can go ahead to the buffet and start choosing your ingredients. Now beware, there’s a warning posted at the tables telling you that you are not allowed to waste. If they find that you’ve wasted more than 200 g of food, they will charge you the cost of an extra pot. So don’t go crazy piling up stuff on your plate that you have no intention of finishing.

The buffet consists of an island and two refrigerated cases along the wall. The island buffet has a section of condiments and sauces. The thick seafood sauce was really good. The sesame sauce must have been popular because there was none left and wasn’t replaced with more despite the numerous trips I made to check on it. Also on the island is a small selection of cooked food like spring rolls and deep fried sesame balls. You also get your standard selection of self-serve drinks including soy milk which I thought was a great idea. Desserts like fruit and 3 kinds of cake are also available. But the main part of the buffet is the refrigerated stuff because that’s what you put into your broth. It’s a good thing that everything is labelled but really, the labels don’t help if you’ve never had any of those strange-looking things before. You just have to try it to see what it tastes like. Something that I thought was really funny were the pieces of spam. There’s a whole lot to choose from so it’s probably a good idea to just take one or two pieces of each. I particularly liked the fried cuttlefish, pumpkin slices, tofu, and udon noodles. You can also choose from a variety of vegetables like water cress, bok choy, broccoli, mushrooms, taro, coriander, and stuff that I can’t remember or didn’t try. They are constantly replenishing the supplies but one thing that I meant to go back for, the little boiled quail eggs, were nowhere to be seen when I returned for seconds. There is also meat such as thinly sliced pork or chicken but the main attraction at Little Sheep is the lamb. Each table is brought a plate piled high with thin slices of lamb. I’ve never been particularly fond of lamb but I have to say, it was DEE-lish.

So the fun part of the meal is of course, cooking all your amassed ingredients in the hot pot. You can control the heat via the digital touch pad on your table top and the pot comes with strainer ladles so that you can fish out your morsels. You would think that everything boiled would taste bland but everything was really good, especially with the different condiments and sauces. All the ingredients were really fresh and of course, everything was piping hot from the hot pot. Every once in a while, the waitress would come by and replenish the water in the pot as it boiled down. The clientele was a mix of couples, groups and families with small children. A pretty interesting and enjoyable way to dine out if you’re looking for something a little different. Good food for the colder months but I wonder how business will do in the sweltering heat of summer? It cost us $10.99 per person not including tax and tip. There’s also an extra $1 charge per person on weekends and holidays.

Who knows, maybe Little Sheep and its little happy sheep logo could sweep the nation like the next Starbucks?

1 Comment so far

  1. peaches (unregistered) on April 9th, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

    Year-round chinese fondue….sounds good to me!



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