When I heard Genghis Grill, a Dallas-based Mongolian restaurant chain, was to Franconia, my first thought was that basing a casual dining restaurant around a mass murderer was a bold move.
After a visit to the restaurant in Festival at Manchester Lakes on Wednesday, I'm happy to say the food is good enough to forget Genghis Khan's, ah, indiscretions. But they aren't kidding about the Mongolian theme--my dining companion remarked that the restaurant could be as loud and disorienting as actual being in one of the Khan's encampments.
Once we were seated, we were lead over to Genghis Grill's central feature--the "make your own bowl" station. I was given a bowl, and a selection of meat, vegetables, spices, and sauces to choose from.
There were cards with suggested dishes everywhere to help me make my pick. The recipes provide a nice jumping-off point to make your own custom dishes--if you just really like cilantro but it's not in the recipe for Mongolian barbeque, screw it, it's in your recipe for Mongolian barbeque.
The staff is eager to make you build a tower of meat and vegetables in your bowl--maybe too eager. My companion had to ask one over-enthusiastic server to give her bowl back after he decided she didn't have enough vegetables.
Still, the server had a point. At $10.99 for dinner and $8.99 for lunch, you need to load up on food. Genghis Grill is obviously a place to go for dinner after a very light lunch, since the advantage lies in eating as much food as possible.
After that, we handed our food to the grill cooks. The whole process, which could have been confusing, was handled remarkably well. But by the time a cook encouraged me to hit a gong because it was my first time at the restaurant, I felt like pleading "Can't I just eat?"
Now, a lot of this can be chalked up to first week jitters.* The restaurant's too loud and the waiters seemed unsure, but that's understandable only three days after opening. It's clear, though, that Genghis Grill will be a place where you go a meal and an experience, with no way of avoiding the latter.
When the food came, both bowls were tasty. My Mongolian barbeque turned out to to be delicious, in part because the strong sauce overpowered whatever mischief I got into with the ingredients. My companion was less thrilled but with the shrimp and sauce in her fried rice, but that's the restaurant's appeal--if you don't like your meal, you can do it a different way the next time.
*It's not entirely fair to review the restaurant so early into its opening, but I couldn't resist my curiosity.