Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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My Little Mongolian BBQ Secret

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Bin bowl

In high school, my friends and I had a special activity to celebrate the end of exam week. When the last exam paper was turned in, we changed out of our uniform into what was then called ‘civilian clothes’ and we hied off to Mile Long (is it still called that?) for our quarterly all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ feast.

While Mile Long today is dodgy-looking with plenty of shuttered offices and even more adult entertainment lounges, in the early 90’s, it was a happening strip of restaurants. There were Korean, a smattering of Filipino, and about four restaurants that specialized in Mongolian BBQ.

Mongolian barbeque is basically a “create your own stir-fry” meal in a bowl. It’s a smashing mishmash/hodgepodge of ingredients of one’s own choosing from a great variety of meats, seafood, vegetables, sauces, and spices. Once it’s filled to the brim (and by this time, overflowing), the bowl is then carefully handed to the waiter in exchange for a numbered tag. The food is then stir-fried in a hot pan back in the kitchen.

prep2
looks like parmesan, is actually a heapload of crushed peanuts

This eat-all-you-can activity has its roots from who else, but the Mongols. It’s said that the hunting parties of the emperors Khan would celebrate their victories by communing in banquet-style tents on the banks of the river Khan-Balik. The Mongols would use their well-honed swords to prepare pieces of meat and vegetables. The food would then be cooked by searing it on their overturned shields that were heated by a roaring fire. Knives and large sauté pans have replaced swords and shields in the present day; the only thing that’s new is the selection of sauces.

Lori bowl

Indeed, while the maxim “hunger is the best sauce,” rings true, in Mongolian barbeque, it’s the sauce that either makes or breaks your bowl. It’s the sauce or sauces that you do or don’t put in that will affect the way your barbecue looks, smells, and tastes. My high school friends and I would often pass our bowls so that everyone would have a taste of each one. Pleasurable sighs of “Yours is great!” to laments, “I like yours better than mine,” were often heard. Of course as is expected in volume cooking, there were occasions when some of us would get a bonus ingredient that we didn’t remember adding: “Hey, why do I have a red pepper slice here? I didn’t put this in!”

I’m the type of person who needs a recipe when working with food. My sauce mixture is more often than not a slap-dash, fly by the pick of my chopsticks affair. Tsamba lang (It’s all luck). Even when I follow a fellow diner’s lead to the letter, I still end up liking his or her barbeque better than mine. Some people just have that touch.

When the Mongolian BBQ restaurants in Mile Long shut down (why! why!), I felt that dull pain all food lovers get when their favorite restaurant closes down or a favored food item is discontinued. It’s really a heartbreak of sorts. Slowly, I got used to it, but sometimes something or someone would trigger the memory and then I remember again.

City Grill

There’s a somewhat prosaic restaurant along Jupiter Street in Makati with an equally unremarkable name: City Grill. Unlike a Gerry’s or a Dencio’s, City Grill’s menu is more Continental. Often-ordered dishes include the creamy pesto chicken or fish fillet (P150/P160), and the prime rib (P275). To the restaurant’s credit, there’s a section on the menu called “From the Grill,” the most popular of which is the boneless chicken inasal (P125).

ready to go

The first time I came to City Grill, I had the prime rib just because I was hankering for steak and at that point, any steak would do. While its price alone indicates that it’s more a peer of Sizzler’s than Highlands Steakhouse, it’s all right.

sauce recipe

But it’s the Mongolian BBQ that I keep coming back for – I’ve already clocked in five visits to City Grill just for it. For only P225, I can stuff myself silly with my ultimate stir-fry. I start off with a choice of white rice, vermicelli (sotanghon), egg noodles – or all three! – make my way through the meats, throw in a few veggies for health, dump loads of mashed garlic and crushed peanuts, and then my waterloo, the sauces. Since I’ve already mentioned that I’m no good without a recipe, I simply follow the City Blend, the restaurant’s house concoction, the recipe of which you see here. It never fails to give me the perfect bowl of Mongolian BBQ. My god, I should’ve had this recipe in high school!

The only thing that worries me about City Grill is that there are hardly any people when I go there. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be drawing a crowd at all. When I’m here, I often have three waiters all to myself, so service here is a dream and me and my little group can make as much noise as we like. The owner tells me that they make money on functions, but I still think it’d be worth it if people come here just for the Mongolian BBQ. It’s that good, and where else can you get Mongolian BBQ in Manila now? But then again, it’s up to what YOU put in your bowl. And that’s where all the fun is. By the way, if you’re like me and don’t like dining in dark places, ask the waiters to crank up the lights a bit. Better light, better appetite, I say.

City Grill
2 branches:

136-138 Jupiter Place Bldg.
Jupiter St., Makati City
890-4964
Open from 11 am – 2:30 pm/ 5-11pm

w-406 Philippine Stock Exchange Centre
Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City
687-1295

citygrillrestaurant@yahoo.com

16 Responses to “My Little Mongolian BBQ Secret”

  • for a quick mongolian barbecue fix, i go to mongolian quick-stop (with branches at SM sucat, SM foodcourt makati, SM fairview). a mongolian bowl costs P108 while a big bowl is pegged at P150. :-)

    ~joy cruz

    [Reply]

  • No inconvenience at all with the temporary move here, Lor! A delicious read is never an inconvenience! :)

    You’re right. Nakaka-sad naman to see City Grill go… Seems like a thoughtful restaurant — they debone their chicken inasal and post the recipe for a sure-hit Mongolian blend… Not bad. :)
    Sige… I’ll suport this one. Thanks!

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  • there’s a place in katipunan near ateneo called Kublai’s and theirs is the longest mongolian buffet spread i’ve ever seen, plus the sauces… wow! i think they have 30! (imagine the possibilities… mmmm…) they used to have a branch in Podium but i guess that didnt work too well, (they closed after a couple of months) we were worried that the katipunan branch would close, since there arent too many people even during peak hours, but theyve been in business for a couple of years now, and they also put up a ballroom dancing thing every wednesdays yta and an open mic night, so i think theyll be around for a long time. you’ve got to try it there sometime… i loved it so much there that we were there almost weekly when i was pregnant! =)

    [Reply]

  • Hi Lori! Let a comment in this post but it must have gotten lost in the move…anyways, just wanted to say a big thank you from me and especially from my hubby (big mongolian bbq fan!)…we are will definitely be checking it out soon!

    [Reply]

  • My favorite Mongolian on Mile Long memory was going there in the pouring rain after class in HS, and all of us were wearing our recently purchased and inappropriate-for-the-weather espadrilles. We looked like drowned rats and the shoes got progressively stinkier over lunch. But we ate like there was no tomorrow!

    [Reply]

  • The food court at my former office building has Mongolian barbecue for only P75 for the mini-bowl and, I think, P100 for the regular bowl. All-you-can-eat Mongolian isn’t value for money for me, as I don’t really eat that much rice. If you’re hankering for a quick Mongolian fix and are in the De la Costa St. area, go to the 12th floor of GT Tower. :-)

    [Reply]

  • hi! just a blog hop.

    seems delicious! i think i should try that one of these days :)

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  • Hi Lori! Yeah, I love the Mongolian BBQ in City Grill too. I usually have it after a nice massage at Island Spa (the spa at the 2nd flr – try it!). Other Mongolian BBQ options: Kublais Rock in Magallanes and if you’re up in Baguio, O Mai Khan (near Cafe by the Ruins).

    [Reply]

  • hey lori!

    i hope you can migrate
    the “clean” fonts you’ve been using
    here in your old blogspot site
    to your dotcom!

    i was really missing the old look of dessertcomesfirst,
    but maybe that’s just separation
    anxiety!!

    [Reply]

  • WOW!! There’s a place like this pa pala! Thanks for the heads up!! :)
    Will DEFINITELY visit!!

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  • hi lori! omg i used to looooooooove that Mongolian BBQ resto on mile long too! does the City Grill serve that coconut milk tapioca dessert too? because if they do, i’m so there!

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  • Hi Lori. Read your article My little mongolian barbq secret. Went over comments section n happy that our Mongolian Quick Stop Restos in festival supermall, galleria n megamall were mentioned. Am glad mongolian eaters are satisfied with our food. We also have branches in RCBC PLAZA Makati, ShoeMart Makati (basement), Robinsons Place Manila (Taste Buds Area), Sta Lucia Mall, Araneta Gateway Food Court, Robinsons Pioneer, Medical City Hospital, SM Fairview, SM Sucat & SM Mall of Asia. I know there a lot of mongolian lovers everywhere. Hope they will visit us soon to try our great food. Thanks.

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  • I found out about City Grill two years ago because of this article. Just recently I discovered they had closed. Any ideas on where they moved (if they did)?

    Thanks!

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  • city grill in jupiter place is closed already. i was all set to go there and called the number in your blog and it was disconnected. maybe it’d be helpful to your readers to delete or at least update the site for establishments that no longer exist . just my two cents worth

    [Reply]

  • Criss -
    That’s a good idea. Thanks.
    – lori

    [Reply]

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