Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 27: New Mongolian BBQ (Yishan)

This place is really the old Mongolian BBQ, which is to say Colonel Lee's Mongolian BBQ. Back when PayPal had its offices right behind this row of restaurants, I would sometimes come here to get take-out for lunch and bring it back to the office, where it would be so delicious-smelling as to be highly disruptive to meetings.

Sometime in the past few years, they upgraded the interior of the restaurant and changed the name, but everything has actually stayed the same: the inside looks a lot better, but the staff is exactly the same (in particular the one chef who waters down all your food) and the serving trays and food selection are the same as well.

Today's visitor was Alex Khomenko, from 23andMe. We knew each other from PayPal days when we were on the same team, and then later we went our separate ways when I joined Facebook and he joined 23andMe. Alex was an extremely good engineer back when we worked together; these days he is Director of Engineering at 23andMe. They are hiring, by the way.

I have been able to identify two chefs here, the older one and the younger one. The older one is much worse than the younger one, because he throws water on your food and basically washes out all the flavoring sauces that you put on it. It makes your dish incredibly bland. The only way to counteract this is, when to get to the sauce area, to fill up all the interstitial space in your bowl with sauce (and I mean all - right up to the brim) with sauces, including sauces much spicier than you would normally use. After the watering-down, your dish will taste approximately okay. If you get the younger chef, he doesn't water down the food and you can use a normal amount of sauce, which is to say that you still need to use quite a lot. I really loathe the old chef (he has been here since the Colonel Lee days), as he's pretty much the primary reasons why this mongolian BBQ lags significantly behind in terms of meal quality (because the ingredients and such are perfectly fine) compared to Su's Mongolian BBQ in Santa Clara and Great Khan's Mongolian Festival in the Valley Fair shopping mall. Great Khan's is, incidentally, probably the best mongolian BBQ you can get in the area - the problem is that you have to go to the mall and walk all the way to the food court to get to it.

The price here is very low, and quality is commensurate. While Alex and I were eating, Ted Wang from Fenwick happened to walk by looking for lunch and said hi (apparently Fenwick works with 23andMe as well as Facebook, so Alex and I both knew him) and then asked how this place was, to which I replied, "Well, it's commensurate with price." He looked at the price of the lunch specials which were posted, chuckled a bit, and thanked us before continuing on.

Bottom line: This place is a bargain.


  1. How did Ted Wang manage to talk to you if he was just walking by looking for a lunch place? Were you sitting outside? Or were you sitting just by the window, and he actually walked inside the restaurant and spoke to you, before leaving again? But if he walked inside, how did he look at the posted prices?

  2. Well, if you look carefully at the picture, you can see from the background features (as well as the lighting levels) that we are sitting at one of the outside tables, where Ted Wang passed and easily observed us, spoke with us, and looked at the posted prices!