January 17, 2011 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
(Blogger’s note: I am actively taking recommendations for future $10 Challenge sites. My fiancé, Rob, has been urging me for months to try out the restaurant I featured this week.)
A table of young men began to sing along with the Ke$ha song that blasted through the speakers the other night as I ate a dish full of chicken and veggies at Shah’s Mongolian Grill.
Clearly, this University of Louisville-adjacent restaurant was not the best place for a young woman who has wiped her hands of the college crowd.
It’s hard to discuss Shah’s Mongolian Grill without a thorough description of the restaurant’s atmosphere, which overtakes the great food offered there. First, a little bit about a Mongolian grill. These restaurants give patrons the opportunity to select meats, veggies and sauces of their choice that an employee collects in a bowl and dumps on a huge, flat grill. Here’s a peek at the selection:
The grill is within walking distance of U of L in a small shopping center. Its proximity to the college campus and an extensive selection of hookah flavors makes this place a small piece of heaven for the U of L students who filled the dining room on my recent visit.
The hookah offerings, which include flavors such as banana, apple martini and Skittles and start at about 10 bucks, are a big draw for students not quite old enough to drink but still looking for a borderline deviant yet legal social activity. Rob and I were the only patrons without a pipe snaking around our tabletop. We were also the only diners with alcoholic beverages. Since Shah’s offers bottles of beer for only $1 or $2 apiece, I assume that folks didn’t take advantage of the cheap drinks because they weren’t old enough.
The drinks aren’t the only inexpensive offering at Shah’s. Entrees start at just $4.99, which includes your choice of one meat and vegetables. The restaurant also offers familiar Asian fare, such as sweet and sour chicken.
In a moment of panic, I ordered the sweet and sour chicken ($4.99) and crab rangoon ($2) rather than a more traditional Mongolian bowl. Rob made up for my misstep my ordering a bowl with two meats, vegetables and rice ($5.99) and a beer ($2).
Though I failed to try something more adventurous, this sweet and sour chicken was some of the best I had ever had. The pineapples were plump and juicy. The vegetables were crisp. And the whole thing was coated in a light sauce that didn’t overpower the dish like many sweet and sour sauces do. Unfortunately, the crab rangoon were two pockets of mostly air with a little bit of filling tucked into a corner.
Rob’s dish was amazing. I don’t know what vegetables he didn’t put in it, but his combination of turkey and chicken with a rich sauce and lots of vegetables was delicious. It made me anxious to revisit Shah’s so I can come up with my own masterful creation.
Shah’s food is worth wading through a haze of hookah smoke. But next time, I might enjoy my meal like the other older folks who sporadically darted into the grill and take my order to go.
Notes about Shah’s Mongolian Grill:
- A handy-dandy chart next to the register displays the steps it takes to order a hearty bowl of stir fry. Don’t hesitate to study it before you place your order. I was overwhelmed with all the steps and options, so I chickened out and went with an easy entree. Do as I say, not as I do, kids.
- The service was a little slow. The cashier was a little frazzled, and the employee bringing hookah pipes to the tables was busier than the cook at the helm of the mighty grill.
- When you place your order, they’ll give you a number. Just make sure you listen carefully for the cook to call out your number – it can be hard to hear above the other patrons and the TV.
The Stats (FYI – I paid for Rob’s meal):
- Stir fry with two meats and vegetables: $5.99
- Sweet and sour chicken: $4.99
- Crab rangoon: $2
- A bottle of beer: $2
- Total (with tax): $15.88, or $7.94 per person