Austin’s West Campus community is no stranger to Asian Cuisine with restaurants and food trucks serving Thai, Japanese and Korean food. Last week, West Campus gained its newest addition to the collection of Asian food options with Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot.
Little Sheep finally opened its doors on April 12 after a five-month wait because of renovations. Although the restaurant’s exterior is still being worked on, the inside is completely finished and ready to go.
This new chain, hailing from Northern China, is currently in its soft opening phase. Manager Johnny Vuong said they are doing a soft opening because he wants his employees to have a time window to learn exactly what they need to do to make the restaurant run smoothly by the time large numbers of customers come.
“We thought it would be slower during this soft opening to give us a chance to figure everything out, but it has been super busy.” Vuong said. “It’s OK, though. We’re catching up.”
The interior of the restaurant is clean and comfortable. With modern wooden décor and flat-screen televisions displaying sports games, Little Sheep does a fine job of giving off a relaxed ambiance.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is not a typical Chinese restaurant — it doesn’t serve sweet and sour or kung pao dishes loaded with MSG. Instead, it offers patrons truly authentic Northern Chinese cuisine.
Little Sheep specializes in three different broth bases — the house original broth, the house spicy broth, and a half-and-half broth. The house spicy broth is loaded with chili peppers and peppercorn, giving it a spicy flavor that, while pleasantly mouthwatering, can be overwhelming to customers who do not have a high tolerance for spicy food. For people who want their soup to have a kick without making them sweat, ordering the half-and-half broth would be the best course of action.
“Both broths were good, but next time if I get the spicy, I’ll probably get it mixed with the original because the spicy was a little too much for me,” economics sophomore James Allen said.
The restaurant’s large menu is initially daunting, but it is really set up to be an extensive “build your own soup” menu. The most efficient way to order as a first-time customer is to simply choose from the combo menu.
The one-person combo is served with a broth of choice, meat of choice and a smörgåsbord of additional soup ingredients including tofu, noodles, shitake mushrooms and tempura.
Like the menu, going about preparing and eating the soup is initially confusing. They place the broth by itself on a stove in the middle of the table and all the other ingredients, including the raw meat, on the side.
The idea is to place the desired ingredients to cook in the boiling pot of broth, though this isn’t as easy as one would think, considering several customers were spotted attempting to eat slices of raw meat before dropping them into the soup.
Confusion aside, the soup filled with all of its ingredients is undeniably fantastic. The meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender, the fresh vegetables mix very well with the flavors and spices of the broth, and the seafood brings it all together.
Little Sheep also offers several a la carte options, including barbecue skewers and a number of sides like potstickers and sesame pancakes. Because it is still in its soft opening, though, many of these menu items are not yet available as they are still being perfected in the kitchen.
Little Sheep has plenty of kinks to work out between now and its grand opening, but the most important thing is that the food is good enough to carry the restaurant through any obstacles during the beginning of its West Campus tenure.
Location: 2400 Seton Ave.
- Recommended Food: One person combo with half spicy half original broth
- Score: 7/10