How big is your wok? Mongolian BBQ at Big Wok

Husband is a big fan of Mongolian BBQ.  When we discovered an all-you-can-eat place in Manhattan Beach during one of our exploratory drives, he was ecstatic.  Big Wok has now become one of our “go to” places for when we don’t feel like cooking and want something inexpensive and filling to eat.

Wok me, Amadeus

This place is pretty popular, especially during the dinner hours.  We usually try to get there  earlier so that we don’t have to wait in lines to get our food and have it cooked. We’ve never had to wait to be seated and are always greeted quickly by a smiling waitress.  Service here has always been great.  Parking on the other hand…

Meat, meat, meat

Just some of the veggie offerings

Big Wok operates like any other AYCE Mongolian BBQ.   You grab a bowl, fill it with semi-frozen slices of meat, vegetables and noodles.  Then you top it off with various sauces and hand the dish to a cook who gives you back a plate of steaming hot yummy eats.  The selection at Big Wok isn’t as big as other places I’ve been to but it has enough variety to make for interesting combinations.

The meat section offers turkey, chicken, pork, beef and lamb.  I usually do a  combo of chicken, beef and lamb, sometimes pork.  There’s also tofu for the vegetarians.

As for veggies, there’s your usual culprits – zucchini, green onions, celery, mushrooms, chopped green and red cabbage.  There’s also spinach, tomato, water chestnuts, baby corn…well, you get the idea.

Pick your sauce

There’s a good variety of sauces.  Regular BBQ oil, spicy BBQ oil, garlic water, ginger water, curry sauce, lemon water, chili oil…  There’s a card with a few combinations but, like all other Mongolian BBQ places I’ve ate at, I find it best if you at least double the number of spoonfuls.  Otherwise, you end up with a bland dish.  I like to use the spicy BBQ oil, garlic water (be sure to add in the garlic chips), a little ginger water and a spoonful of chili oil.  I think I may have to add in more chili as it never comes out as spicy as I want.

There's meat under all that...

Mmmm mmmm....

I don’t usually do noodles as I prefer rice.  I’m not sure why.  I do like noodles but I never get them at Mongolian BBQ places.  Maybe it’s because I don’t want to fill up on them when I know I’m also going to get “mana biscuits”.  Husband, on the other hand, is the opposite.  He loads up on meat and noodles.  Completely skips the veggie section…*sigh*

Oodles of noodles

Hey, where's the greens?

Mana Biscuits

Back to the “mana biscuits”.  What I’m talking about are those Chinese flat sesame-crusted bread thingies.  Husband and I used to play a lot of WoW and talked about having a guild party at our place and doing a WoW themed menu.  We decided that these bread items would be perfect “mana biscuits”.  I know, we’re dorks…  I love these things, though.  Husband doesn’t eat them since he’s got oodles of noodles on his plate so I always gobble them up.  There’s a nice crispness on the outside; the inside is warm and a little chewy.  I like to wipe the plate with them…so good!

Our total bill, tip included, ranges from $25-30 depending on if we get drinks or not.  Big Wok also offers some sides like fried shrimp, kimchee, soup and wontons but I’ve never ordered them and never seen anyone else with those dishes on their table.

I give Big Wok 3 1/2 NOMs!

Big Wok
250 N Sepulveda Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 798-1155
Big Wok Mongolian BBQ on Urbanspoon

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New Seoul BBQ

New Seoul BBQ

Over the Christmas break, the Husband and I met up with my parents for lunch in Orange County.  The last few times we’ve done this, we’ve gone to New Seoul BBQ, an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ Buffet.  The reason…meat-fest!

Unlike Manna, the place we frequent up in LA, New Seoul is a self-serve buffet.  This is more convenient since there is no time wasted trying to flag down a waiter and put in an order for meat.  Also, New Seoul has a wider variety of choices than Manna’s all-you-can-eat menu.  I think the meat is better quality as well.  It is more expensive, though.  Since my parents always paid, I never got a look at the check but I’m guessing $20ish/pp for weekend lunch.

New Seoul BBQ - banchan

When you walk in, you’re greeted by a long bar.  On one side, various banchan and a salad bar await your consumption.  Different kinds of kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, tofu are just some of the choices.  Overall, the banchan is of decent quality.  They have a lot of the things I like to eat, including pickled shredded daikon and almond jelly.

The other side offers up various marinated meats and seafood.  The usual suspects – bulgogi, kalbi, chicken and pork bulgogi – are present but so are pork belly, tripe, beef tongue, baby octopus, mussels, and whole shrimp.

There’s also stations offering up hot items like udon, fried rice, japchae, egg rolls, fried mandoo, steamed egg.  The japchae is average though the noodles are sometimes overcooked, maybe from sitting under the heatlamp for too long.  The steamed egg is not that great.  They also have a couple of types of nigiri sushi but I usually pass as the one time I tried it, the fish didn’t taste fresh; it had a strong fish taste.  For dessert, there’s fruit, jello and a yogurt machine as well as a persimmon-rice drink.

New Seoul BBQ - Various meats on the table grill

Whenever we’ve gone, the service has been good.  We seem to always get the same table everytime.  The booths are big and spacious, giving everyone a lot of elbow room but still keeping them in arm’s reach of the grill.  The waitresses bring the rice (white or “brown” (purple, actually)) to the table instead of us getting it ourselves and they also cut the meat. They are pretty good about checking in on us as well.

While the price may seem steep for a buffet, for our family it is a decent deal since we can pack away the Korean BBQ.  Just be careful as they will charge you for any meat you leave behind.

Everytime we have come here, the place has been fairly empty.  I don’t know if it’s the cost that’s prohibitive for lunch or if people prefer to come here during the dinner hours.  It works out nicely for us as we get good service and there’s no line at the buffet.

The Catty Critic gives New Seoul BBQ 4 NOMs.

New Seoul BBQ
9902 Garden Grove Boulevard
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 537-9292
New Seoul Korean BBQ Buffet on Urbanspoon

94th Aero Squadron

The 94th Aero Squadron is a unique restaurant in the middle of an industrial area.  The building on the outside looks like a old French farm house from the WWI era, complete with models of bi-planes and ivy climbing up the walls.  Inside, they continue the theme with old photos, coats and helmets hanging on the walls and music from the times coming from the speakers.

I guess you could say I’m a little biased towards this place since the Mister and I had our wedding reception here.  We didn’t want to hold our reception at a traditional venue (hotel ballroom) and wanted a place that had character without having to break the bank.  The 94th offered that.

Their dinner buffet option was $37-ish a head and included cake-cutting, a glass of wine with dinner, champagne/cider toast, 4 hors d’oeurves choices, 6 “salad” choices, 3 hot entree choices and 2 side dishes.  It all adds up to a lot of food.  They do add on an 18% service charge and of course, there’s the usual sales tax but given how a lot of places charge $100+/pp just for food, this was really a bargain!

The buffet ended up being really good and people were quite happy with the selection and quality.  We had a couple of vegetarians and food allergies on our guestlist but the 94th accommodated us on both with ease.   What little I ate was delicious.  While it’s not cuisine that people are going to rave about, it is good, hearty and filling food that people will be happy with and not go home hungry.

As for the bar, we were able to do an open bar for $1K for the entire time (minus the last hour – give people time to sober up).  They don’t over-price their drinks  – a Jack n’ Coke is like $5 so not only were we able to do the open bar, we didn’t have to limit selections.

The service was fantastic and we didn’t have to deal with any issues at all.

The only issue I had was with the layout which actually worked out in the end.  Because of the size of our party, we ended up having to seat guests in the side room so it sort of separated them from the main room but it did keep our more “liberal” friends from our more “conservative” family.  😀  Our friends actually liked it because it allowed them to be as rowdy as they wanted as well.

What was also nice was that there was an outdoor patio for smokers and a huge area with a duck pond for kids to run around and stay entertained.

In terms of regular dining, this place is pretty good.  I’ve been here for their lunch buffet which is alright for the price.  Some of their dishes like the salmon are a miss but there’s a lot more hits.  They are great at doing meat dishes – love the carved prime rib – but not so much on seafood.  I do recommend going earlier in their lunch hours as towards the end, you get the stuff that’s been sitting out for a while.

However, the big thing is the Sunday Champagne brunch.  For $22.95, this is a great brunch buffet.  Omlette bar, pasta bar, fresh waffles, shrimp cocktail, crab legs, mussels, eggs benedict, bacon, bread assortment and a HUGE dessert selection…yummy chocolate cake and chocolate fountain!  I do wish they carried smoked salmon as that is a staple for a brunch buffet in my book but there’s enough other stuff to keep me happy.  And they are not stingy with the champagne.  They will keep filling your glass up till you start acting drunk or tell them you are done.  There’s orange juice for mimosas as well.  It gets really busy though so I highly recommend making reservations for this, even if it’s just for a party of two.

I give 94th Aero Squadron 3 1/2 NOMs.  The food isn’t memorable but the value, service and atmosphere is.

94th Aero Squadron
8885 Balboa Ave

San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 560-6771
http://www.94thaerosquadron.signonsandiego.com
94th Aero Squadron on Urbanspoon