Mongolian BBQ at Food World is Neither BBQ Nor Mongolian

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what Mongolian Food is.  I don’t even know anything about Mongolia itself.  But I feel pretty safe in saying that if you ever find yourself at a restaurant in Mongolia, there will be no sign of a gigantic round griddle, and they will not allow you to pick out your own ingredients from a buffet.  If you were a soldier in the Mongol Empire, you may have eaten copious amounts of meat and vegetables off of your overturned shield, cooked over a fire and stirred with your sword, but that’s pretty much where the comparison ends.  (Although I’m not sure if I should be getting my Mongol Empire historical information from a U.S. chain restaurant website?)

Anyway, regardless of its origin, Mongolian BBQ is here, and people love it.  I’m constantly asked “Where can I find some good Mongolian BBQ in Midtown?”  Which is a tough one for me to answer, because I don’t usually eat Mongolian BBQ.  And there are four words to explain why: Pay by the Pound.  Take me to an all you can eat Mongolian BBQ (like Fire & Ice in Boston), and I’m a madman.  You force me to weigh my food and there’s going to be trouble… but for the sake of you people, I headed to Food World- the freshest looking Mongolian BBQ I’ve seen in Midtown.

What I got, Mongolian BBQ Porn, and a +/- after the jump…

I’ve seen a few Mongolian BBQ places in Midtown, but Food World is a really good combination of size, and freshness.  Everything looks really clean and good, and if you are skeeved out by normal by the lb. buffets, you can take comfort in knowing that this food is going to be cooked, *after* you remove it from the public trays, making it a lot cleaner.  Mongolian BBQ is not a difficult concept to understand, but the instructions are summed up pretty well in this photo:

At almost $8 a lb., the rules of Mongolian BBQ are very similar to the rules of the by the lb. buffet.  Big Money Items.  You gotta do it.  Nothing on the buffet costs more than $8 a lb, so no matter what, you’re getting ripped off- but by loading up on the meat and seafood you are at least getting closer to that $8 a lb price point.  Normally I would be worried taking seafood off a buffet like this, but Food World’s shrimp and scallops actually look reasonably edible- especially compared to other Mongolian BBQ’s I’ve seen.  (They hadn’t been deveined though, which I know will be an issue for some folks.)

Starch is the killer, and Food World makes it real tough, offering multiple noodle choices which all look delicious.  It was too much for me to handle, and I caved- turning my stir fry into a chow fun sauteed udon style noodle dish.  I tried to make up for it by adding more beef, and less veggies but I knew I was screwing myself.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that noodles + water + oil soaked griddle = heavy.

Once you fill your bowl, you go over to the cooking station and select your sauce.  Most Mongolian BBQ’s will add the sauce for you, but Food World allows you to add your own sauce, and mix and match as you please.  They also have fresh ginger and garlic, which allows you to really get creative based on your own personal tastes.  It can be a little overwhelming trying to choose a sauce, and adding it yourself, but it is a great perk for those who always find that places like this add too much or too little sauce.

I went with the “Ginger Sauce”, and tossed in some extra fresh garlic for good measure.  They have about ten sauces in all- so to try all of them and report back would have been too much Mongolian BBQ, even for me.  I have my limits, people.  The Ginger Sauce and garlic combo was pretty awesome- but if you have a favorite, feel free to post it as a comment below.  

With the sauce applied, we were ready for cooking.  With sword-like giant sticks to move the food around, the guy behind the sheild-like griddle moved with the quickness and efficiency of a soldier in the Mongol army.  You like that?  Actually, they just looked like guys with giant chopsticks cooking Chinese food on a giant round griddle.  Nothing Mongolian about it.

After a few minutes of cooking, I head over to judgement day.  With the over/under set at one pound, I put all my money on the “Over”, and won pretty handily:

It’s too bad nobody was there to take my sucker bet.  The meal was delicious, but I couldn’t help but think that for $6, I could have had the Beef Chow Fun at Hing Won- and it would have tasted exactly the same, if not better.  Of course, I would have missed out on all the fun of picking out my own ingredients, plus the company of any co-workers who will only go to crappy & generic Midtown delis.

I can’t say Food World is the best Mongolian BBQ in Midtown, but it is the nicest one I’ve seen.  Have you been to a better one?  Do you have a favorite flavor combo?  Feel free to post it as a comment below…

THE + (What someone who likes this place will say)

  • The ingredients all looked really fresh and good
  • The food is cooked *after* you take it out of the public trays, making it much cleaner then normal by the lb buffet food
  • The Food World Mongolian BBQ has scallops and big shrimp, both of which were delicious and as fresh as can be expected.  This makes it less of a rip off.
  • Big selection
  • I love coming up with my own food creations, so I love Mongolian BBQ

THE – (What someone who doesn’t like this place will say)

  • I am a fat man, and should never pay for my lunch based on what it weighs
  • It’s tough to get away from Mongolian BBQ for less than $9, making it a total rip-off!
  • If you want Chinese stir fry, you can get it pre-made at a Chinese restaurant for much cheaper then $8 a lb.
  • I would never eat seafood from a generic Midtown deli

Food World, 20 E. 46th St. (btw. 5th + Madison), 212-661-1110

More Mongolian BBQ photos on the Midtown Lunch Flickr Photo Page



  • I love men with giant sticks. And I’m getting jealous of everyone who works on 46th St! Yum.

  • I’ve experience this same sort of outrageous deal at a place called Azure on 3rd Ave & 51st. I succumbed to co-worker peer pressure and went to what I would deem the “Starbucks of Delicatessens.” It’s glitzy and extremely overpriced. How’d I get suckered into this? I tried the ‘Mongolian BBQ’ which was stuffed far in the back corner where two sweaty guys were slaving over the round griddle. You know what? I only ate the whole thing because I paid $8.25 for less than a pound of vegetables and meat. At least it sounds like Food World had more than 3 sauces which is more than I can say for Azure. Why do people waste their time with these places??

  • I strongly prefer the mongolian bbq at the korean deli on the north side of E. 49th b/w Park and Madison. My problem with the bbq at Good World– and maybe it’s because I got stuck with the mongolian bbq B team (they have two tables)– is that they used too much water and cooked my plate for too long, so i ended up with a pretty bland, pretty rubbery plate of beef/chicken/scallops/pork/imitation crab (yes, i like mixing meats). Like I said, maybe it was because I ran into the B team, but I probably shouldn’t have to deal with the B team when I’m trying to buy 24 ounces of lunch.

  • I’ve always peered at the Mongolian BBQ at the deli across from me but rejected it because it doesn’t seem… very good… I don’t know. The idea is great but I can’t get behind it. I like veggies (and they tend to be light!) but… yeah.
    Alternatively, while in Chicago, my friend insisted we have lunch at this place (and we all looked at her as though she’d sprouted another head- an Asian chain owned by non-Asians?!) but it was surprisingly delicious. If I recall correctly, it was the same concept but you paid one price and got to pick out your veggies yourself from the bar. (You told the waiter what starch and what meat you wanted, as well as which sauce.) Hmm.. it was actually pretty good. I think it was called Big Bowl.

  • Oh I also avoid the place across from me, which has a great pay-by-the-lb. buffet (well, the items are really yummy, but it’s still expensive) because teh seafood looks really iffy on that buffet table. I wouldn’t get it anyway, but if that’s iffy, it makes me wonder about the meat…

  • Soooo much angst about a meal, Yvo, you gotta be a democrat.

  • Vive Riceball – if you have lunch envy of we East 46ers, you should be committed to an asylum…no offense.
    I think I’ve previously commented here on Food World’s Mongolian Grill, but I mostly agree with Zach. Aside from the fact that your food is repeatedly doused in water and the grillers never met a bowl of food they didn’t overcook, you cannot get a decent sized meal for under $8. On the other hand, you can get almost the exact same thing at Hing Won for $6 and Hing Won will taste better. However, the shrimp always looks fresh even though I’d bet it’s simply thawed frozen shrimp.

  • Zach, those noodles do NOT look like Chow Fun. Chow Fun may be either Chow Mai Fun with rice sticks, which are very narrow flat rice noodles, or Chow Ho Fun, with broad flat rice noodles. Those look a LOT more like either Lo Mein noodles or some form of spaghetti. In either case, those are WHEAT noodles and the distinguishing thing about Chow Fun is the RICE noodles.



    I’m sorry.  You are absolutely right.  What I meant to say was “Udon” noodles  -zach

  • Yvo……what’s the name of the place across from you so that I can avoid it?

  • Beancounter- sorry, I’m wayyyy downtown, but it’s The Riverside Cafe, directly across from S&P on Water Street. The food isn’t that bad, though I haven’t tried too many different things, just the Mongolian BBQ section looks suspect.
    Rudy- nope. Republican for the most part.

  • Basically for me, the water squirting ruins this meal. It takes all the taste out of the food and leads to a meal that tastes like absoulutely nothing.

  • Im losing the will to live.

    Can we please have a big fat cab driver from queen as next weeks profile?….one that actually know, EATS

  • can we please have liv tyler as next week’s profile?

    (incidentally, her publicist must be going nuts with all the effing google alerts this blog generates… kudos to rudy for best-and-longest-running ML bit ever).

  • Zach – you’re right – it’s about as authentically Mongolian as fortune cookies are authentically Chinese. For the record, “Mongolian” bbq started in Taiwan – some entreprenuer thought calling it “Mongolian” would draw customers in because it sounded exotic, so s/he came up with a myth about Gengis Khan to back it up. Corporate America just took it one step further. Check out Wikipedia’s entry for “Regional variations of barbecue.”

  • Yvo’s a republican???? (cry) And Rudy, big fat cab drivers from queens are probably too busy driving their cabs to spend their days reading food blogs. If you don’t watch it, I’ll nominate myself to be the next luncher and I’m a vegetarian and I do NOT look like Liv Tyler (though we were briefly classmates at the same elementary school), and you will be even less happy.

  • The best and cheapest way to do a Mongolian Stir Feast is the following:
    1) Bring a variety of low cost veggies to work.
    2) Pre-cook noodles at home.
    3) Go to the mongolian bbq and select expensive items and sauce.
    4) Steam veggies and re-heat noodles, combine with meats and sauce from the bbq.
    5) enjoy.

  • That’s if your company is NICE enough to provide you with a fridge to store your pre-cooked food AND a microwave to heat it up with… my company however is f’n ridic. *rolls eyes* Who doesn’t give their staff a small kitchenette??

  • Second the recommendation for the place on 49th near Park (Bistro 49?). Huge place – mongolian, salad buffet (fresh/tasty), salad bar, deli counter, udon soup bar, sushi, etc. etc. etc.

  • A place called “Pranzo” on 50th between 6th and 7th has something similar, labeled “Teppanyaki” – not “mongolian” because no circular upside-down wok grill, but basically the same thing – pick meats, sauces, veggies, etc. and hand them over to grill. On a typical flat griddle… haven’t had it yet, smells good. But the real deal here is the brick oven sandwiches for $6.95 – watch them bake the bread while you wait for the sandwich to cook in the oven, and sample the bread too while you wait! Yum. Otherwise, Pranzo is your typical steam table of everything joint. Though they also have a D.I.Y. “Udon Bar” where you can mix and match Udon noodle soup ingredients….

  • just wondering have any one felt that at Mongolian Buffets that after like a plate of food you are extremely full even if the portion is small. I usually can eat 3-4 large plates of food at regular buffets, but Mongolian Buffets 2 is always my limit.

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