Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Restaurant Review: Genghis Grill (Chantilly, VA)

As a family of foodies, seeking out restaurants has become sort of a new, fun hobby of ours. We love finding new places and trying new foods. The only rule is that if it’s a sit down, it has to accommodate both of our diets, and of course, there are always bonus points if the place is local. Our new hobby has brought us on many adventures, both the exciting and disappointing, bonding us together in a classic way; over good food. We have traveled far, even out of state, to try new food, but finding places close to home that we can go to for a delicious quick fix is always convenient, especially for those busy weekends. One of our go-tos: Genghis Grill. 

Conveniently located right by Costco’s and Target in the center of Chantilly, VA is a Mongolian-style restaurant specializing in personalized dining. The concept? Build-your-own stir-fry bowl. The idea of building your own meal to be freshly cooked and served in front of you isn’t new, but finding a restaurant featuring this style of dining isn’t easy either. At least not yet. While Genghis may be viewed by many as a local restaurant, it is actually a chain still making its way around America. Most of Genghis’ locations are dispersed throughout the southern hemisphere of the US with plenty of northern states to still reach. As long as the desire to create your own personalized meal remains popular, Genghis should have no issues reaching those northern states within the next couple of years. However, what if the idea dies out or gets boring? Then what is Genghis to do? Build a menu of course.

Genghis Grill has recently released a new “We Build It” menu that features new, chef created menu items that are prepared and brought straight to your table. Yep. You don’t have to get up from your table and waste 10 minutes debating on what combination of protein, veggies, spices and sauce you want to serve over your preferred bowl of starch. It’s a great addition to the restaurant that not only provides convenience, but also options. 

While the menu does offer a few “Grill creations”, bowls similar to what you can create on your own, it mostly features, new items that stray away from the typical stir-fried bowl. From tacos, to salads, to wraps and now, a kids menu, Genghis Grill has made dining easier for families with little ones and more appealing to their returning customers.  As returning customers, the announcement of a new menu featuring delicious sounding eats had us itching to return and give it a try. So we did thanks to Genghis' marketing team who had contacted me a couple of months back asking if I was interested in trying out the new menu. The only deal was that in exchange for a $25 GC I would provide an honest review of their new menu items. Sounds good, right? It did, until I realized I would have to write this....

Last Sunday afternoon for lunch, my family and I stepped in to Genghis with high expectations. The first thing we noticed were the digital menus located on each and every table. Not only did the new mini-comps contain the entire menu, but it also contained games to keep both children and adults entertained while waiting for the food to be cooked. I liked the new addition but wondered what its purpose was considering we still had paper menus and we didn’t use it to pay for anything. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out. I’m curious. 

After being seated, we ordered two appetizers: edamame beans and potstickers. It didn’t take too long for either one of them to come out. The edamame beans were hot, but also overcooked. The outer shell was way too soft to bite into that it was almost mush. If you’ve ever had cooked edamame beans, you know that the outer shell should be fresh and tough but soft enough to break the seam and push the bean out. It should never be as soft as these were. It made it difficult and almost annoying to eat. Thankfully the seasoning was good enough that we made it through and ate them anyways.

As for the potstickers, while they weren’t crispy where browned and cooked, indicating they were most likely sitting a bit before serving, according to my husband, they were still good enough to eat. He mentioned that he preferred them hotter, with more crisp, but other than that, good.

While nomming on our appetizers, we ordered our drinks and meals. My husband chose the Korean BBQ Steak Tacos; for my daughter, the Pepperoni Pizza; and for me, the only meal that seemed vegan, the Thai Coconut Tofu Bowl. I asked the waiter if he knew if the bowl contained any animal or seafood products and unfortunately, he couldn’t give me a confident answer. Based on my own knowledge, I decided to trust my instinct and go with it. I figured since Genghis labels their sauces as vegetarian/vegan that they would have at least ONE vegan-friendly bowl.

Again, we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. All three meals were freshly cooked, steaming hot and ready to be devoured. They looked appealing to the eyes, which of course is a must considering we eat with our eyes first. Too bad they looked better than they tasted.

The first thing I noticed when I got my bowl was the size. It was WAY out of proportion. It was larger than the bowls we receive when building our own. It contained at least 3 cups of rice and it was topped with a mixture of white potatoes, green beans, carrots, onions and firm tofu with more potatoes than anything else. While I enjoyed the creamy, spicy, coconutty taste, which met my expectations to the tee, I was disappointed by the variety of veggies. Not sure why I was expecting more considering I read what was on the menu, but I guess the mixture seemed off. With Thai Coconut I was thinking potatoes, onions, peas…maybe carrots? Overall the bowl was delicious. It wasn’t anything new, at least not to my experienced palate anyways, but it was still good. I would just recommend variety, less starches and a smaller bowl! It was a waste of food as all I could eat was the tofu, green beans and a few potatoes. I barely put a dent in it. I do have to give kudos on the firm tofu. I was really expecting the soft stuff considering that’s what’s available at the Build-It bar. Would I order it again? Maybe.

My husband’s Korean BBQ Tacos looked amazing! They were stuffed with marinated beef, topped with a dry cabbage slaw and drizzled with a spicy asian sauce..which turned out to be mayo based…which my husband hates. Strike one. The menu I guess is a bit vague on its descriptions? Or maybe my husband was just expecting something soy based, not cream based. He stated it tasted like mayo and spice and didn’t have a strong flavor. The beef, he stated, was also “weird in taste”. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t like the taste. He couldn’t determine if it was the spicy sauce or if the marinade just was not his thing. The tacos were overstuffed with way too much slaw and not enough meat. He pretty much kicked most of it off. After 1 ½ tacos my husband threw in the towel. I’ve never seen him NOT eat all of something before, even if it wasn’t the best. To him they just were not good.

As for my daughter’s pepperoni pizza, what was thought to be an open-faced tortilla pizza turned out to be a pizza quesadilla. The menu stated it was “Pepperoni Pizza” with two tortillas, but I guess we didn’t put two and two together. The sad part is, it didn’t contain any pepperoni!!  Our waiter came over and asked if we wanted beef, chicken or cheese…so we opted for cheese completely confused by his question. When her meal arrived we realized why. The quesadilla was grilled well, but a bit too well for my daughter. She’s not a fan of the burnt, grilled taste on her tortillas. That plus the confusion of what she was receiving completely threw her off and she too refused to eat her food. Instead she ate my rice and potatoes.

With the negativity brewing from both my husband and daughter, I knew it was time to leave. We paid for our meal, tipped our waiter and headed out discussing the entire way home our experience. My husband stated he would never try the menu again, even if they paid him too…ouch…but that he WOULD return for the occasional build-your-own bowl. Sadly, I have to agree. My bowl wasn’t bad, but I would have preferred to just make my own. At last there would have been way more veggies.

So if you plan on going to Genghis Grill, and I encourage you to make a visit, just make sure you build-your-own bowl. The service is great, the drinks are rocking and the experience is a must.  Plus, if you have a family with different diets and/or different palates, this restaurant is the best place to go. There’s nothing like customizing your own meal and at the same time, having all the other dirty work done for you. Everyone will leave happy and satisfied. Oh, not to mention, the prices are great. 

As for Genghis, don’t stray away from what you do best. Even if it is the only thing you do, there are plenty of restaurants who specialize in one type of food or one style of cooking. Look at the overflowing number of Japanese hibachi-style steakhouses. Our suggestion is to either improve the taste of your menu items and adjust the descriptions to provide more clarity on the ingredients or keep the menu as a second option.  

I do want to thank you, Genghis for the opportunity to the try the new menu and I hope this review provides you with the valuable feedback that you were seeking. I hope this helps you improve as you continue to grow and evolve.
Best wishes...until next time.


Calm Down, It's Just My Opinion - Even though a large portion of our meal was provided to us for free, this generous offer in no one changes my honest opinion.

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