With Megan Edge
In this edition of The Northern Light’s “Anchorage Food Quest” summer special, TNL decided to focus on something typically high on most college students’ quick-food list: Chinese. Mongolian beef is an option found at most all Chinese restaurants in town, so with that as a common denominator, we wanted to see how five spots frequented by students compared.
1. Northern China
It was a tough call for which restaurant claimed the number one slot, but Northern China’s Mongolian beef pulled ahead with their moderately thin meat slices, slight caramelization of their sauce around the meat and greens (which adds a surprisingly pleasant crunch), bold and sweet flavor and their generous serving size. The ultimate deal sealer for TNL was the smaller beef chunks; Northern China is the only restaurant sampled where the chunks were a manageable size to eat without using a knife.
2. Panda Restaurant
Unlike Northern China, Panda Restaurant’s Mongolian beef sported thick chunks that very nearly melt in the mouth; unfortunately, they are also long and difficult to work with. Their sauce is sweet and tangy, but not overpowering, and their veggies blend nicely with the sauce and beef. The food is spectacular, and almost worthy of the top slot, but something unidentifiable leaves it lacking in comparison. There’s no shame in this strong second.
3. Mongolian BBQ
This restaurant’s Mongolian beef dish is average in almost every way, and in general a disappointment. The beef is too thinly sliced and overcooked, the sauce is sweet enough to promote cavities and the veggies are overcooked as well. Overall, the taste is mediocre, but not terrible. Those who really enjoy meats marinated with sweet sauces might find this more enjoyable, but TNL wasn’t impressed.
4. New Sagaya
Sure, it isn’t a real restaurant, but New Sagaya’s in midtown is located across the street from the University Center, and does serve up some decent food. Unfortunately, their Mongolian beef leaves much to be desired. The beef slices are thick and tough; virtually impossible to eat without cutting up first. Their sauce is also very bland; they are the only joint with this issue. If you’re hungry in New Sagaya, stick to the sesame chicken or a calzone.
5. Carrs Grocery
Just don’t even bother. While it’s much more convenient to get your Chinese fix when checking out with your groceries, don’t do it. The Mongolian beef at Carrs has an almost gravy-like sauce, and is gritty. The beef is coated in a disgusting layer of caramelized sauce that makes it even less palatable, and the red peppers randomly thrown into the dish add a strange aftertaste that TNLers could only wash out with copious amounts of Starbucks frappes. Do yourself a favor and stick with deli sandwiches if you’re buying lunch-on-the-go from Carrs.