I was invited to a VIP lunch at the new HuHot Grill in Bloomington, IN — off of 3rd street where Cheeseburger in Paradise used to be. The location is fantastic being next to a college campus, and I couldn’t wait to see if this style of cuisine would be well received by a primarily student populated community.
HuHot is a Mongolian BBQ style grill, like BD’s Mongolian or FlatTop Grill. First you grab a bowl and “pillage” the raw food selection. The food is raw because it is cooked for you on a circular, hibachi style grill.
There are several meats and veggies to choose from. I started with a bowl of chicken with some vegetables. Apparently, they have swordfish, but this must be a dinner item due to the premium quality of meat. After you pile a bowl (and I do mean pile — the raw food cooks down a bit), you add your own concoction of sauce based on 10 bases at the sauce bar.
Unlike BD’s, you have to ladle the sauce directly into the bowl, instead of in a side dish. If you do decide to try the place, I recommend at least 10 ladles full to get a good flavor. When you are all ready to go, the chefs at the grill greet you and try to pump you up with excitement about your amazing creation. I thought this was a great way to get customers involved and prime them for an enjoyable experience. The food takes about 10 minutes to cook and you are ready to eat. At the table, the servers provide you with tortillas and white rice (no brown, when I asked) as well.
The food quality was pretty good, but your experience will depend on how well you add ingredients to a bowl and how much sauce you add. My bowls were mainly chicken based, but you can add sausage, crab, and/or beef as well. The sauce mixture I made combined the spicy Kung-Pao style sauce with a sweet Hoisen mixture. If you like spicier food, try to put at least 7-10 ladle fulls of the Kung-Pao alone. In general, the learning curve isn’t too high, and a quality product can definitely be achieved with ease.
The service was pretty fast, but my friends and I agreed that there could be an issue with waiting in line to construct your bowl when the location opens to the public. There is no real way to stand in line without interrupting other patrons; perhaps they should create a more defined queue for customers to wait in. Given that you eat at your own pace, waiting for dinner is a non-issue. However, if you want to order and appetizer or dessert, plan for the fact that they make take about 10 minutes. The wait staff were extremely pleasant and I’d like to especially thank the manager, Ana, and the professional staff for their hospitality.
For lunch, the place is an amazing deal. There is no tiered pricing — $8.00 gets you unlimited lunch bowls and about $12 for unlimited dinner bowls. The only other location in the area that can match this is the China buffet in the strip mall adjacent to the location, which offers a similar $8.00 pricing. Your meal also includes a soft drink. College students will love this and I am confident that the business will be a booming success with a continued focus on quality and friendliness.