Remember when Mongolian barbecue was supposed to become a thing? I do. In fact, I remember the exact pitch: In late 2000, a cute Latina PR hack was going on and on about the feedbag concept while we were enjoying sunset cocktails at the cliffside home of an Orange County Register columnist. She was trying to sell me on BD's Mongolian Grill, a chain that was just about to enter Orange County and which the Weekly would eventually review—but not me.
While I love creating a massive bowl of stir-fried meat, noodles and veggies, I pointed out that Southern Californians were too tied to their buffets and three-item Chinese combos and burritos to ever take a shining to a new chain concept such as Mongolian barbecue. And I was proven right: BD's is long-gone from the Orange County dining scene, existing nowadays only in small-town America. And while Mongolian barbecue spots do exist around, we far prefer teriyaki bowls, à la the Mos2 chain. I wouldn't call Mongolian barbecue a dying concept, but let's just say no Instagram superstars post religiously from a favorite spot. Tellingly, the majoirty of customers at the curiously named Mongolian Grill CY in Westminster are retirees and broke college students—people who want cheap, heaping portions and don't really give a damn about innovation.
You've been to one Mongolian barbecue spot, you've been to them all—the smashing of frozen meat slices and vegetables into a bowl until you create a delicately balanced mound; the mixtures of random sauces; the realization that all-you-can-eat ain't worth it because one bowl is enough. But CY does rise above others in interesting ways. It offers a full boba and smoothie menu as a nod toward nearby Little Saigon. While you do serve yourself in a bowl, what emerges after cooking is a plate of food that now includes a scoop of white rice and egg roll bits. And the real specialties are in the back of the menu: an array of dumplings and wontons with the best being the No. 9, eight pork wontons slicked with “spicy sauce” and peanuts, which deserves to be a late-night sensation at Diamond Jamboree.
Mongolian Grill CY, 16412 Beach Blvd., Westminster, (714) 969-0380.