Sunday, May 13, 2007

Little Lamb

There is a yet another hot pot restaurant that just opened in Box Hill, Little Lamb. I had thought it was the same franchise as the one in Hong Kong, which I went to when I was there on holiday. It was excellent so I suggested that we go eat there. Dennis made the arrangements and Patrick, Kevin, Candy and I joined him for dinner there. It turned out Little Lamb is a franchise from China, rather than the Hong Kong one which is Little Sheep. I would have known they were different if we knew the English name originally, but we only knew the Chinese name, which was so similar. Little Lamb is xiao mei yang (little sheep tail) while Little Sheep is xiao fei yang (little fat sheep).

We walked into the restaurant on the corner of Station Street and Whitehorse Road, which used to be the New Shanghai Dumpling place. Once you step in, the smell of the hot pot soup hits you like a jab from Mohammed Ali. It was everywhere and took a while to get used to. I could smell though that this soup would be good already. The herbal medicines in the soup wasn't as strong as some places.

We were shown a table upstairs and seated at a table with a induction hot plate. This was a good sign already for a few reasons. Firstly, the pot would be boiling fast as induction hot plates are very efficient compared to the gas ones where we sit around waiting forever and need to get the gas changed constantly. I could go into the physics of induction but it would take up the whole post, so its better if you click on the link (if you're a geek and want to know) and read it at Wikipedia. You can then follow the link to induction cookers, or click here if you're too lazy. Second advantage of having an induction hot plate is that it was embedded into the table, meaning the actual pot itself was not too high and we could see what was inside it.

After ordering our drinks (the soy drink is very nice), we ticked as many boxes on the election like green sheet as we could. We ticked as many boxes above, below and around the line as we could. The dilemma with buffets is whether to grab as much as you can so you don't miss out on anything or be conservative and try a few things to see how big the serving sizes were. We went the order everything route as we were all starving and saw the serving sizes from other tables. Oh I forgot to mention that you can choose to have buffet ($20) or a la carte. Obviously we chose buffet. This would turn out to be a very wise move.

So here is the ying yang (mixed) soup that we chose. Don't worry, the hot soup looks more threatening than it is. It wasn't too hot, well for me anyway. Too hot is when my lips start to expand in size like I've had botox injections. The soup here was only mild and I didn't even need water to suppress the spiciness. The soup was very nice, with a good mixture of herbal medicine to provide flavour without making it too overpowering.

There was a lot of dishes you can order from. Our favourites were the beef, lamb, abalone mushroom, fish balls, rice sticks, squid and various vegetables. The various types of balls here are quite good. They're not your generice supermarket flour types. They acutally tasted like they were hand made and contained some ingredients of what they were labelled as. The fish and squid balls were definitely good. The beef balls were a bit mince like, which I didn't like but some others did. The beef and lamb slices were very good. We ordered 11 plates of beef and 5 of lamb all up.

They even had desserts, amazing. We had peanut and sesame dumplings and these taro and red bean Chinese pancakes. The dumplings were great, with the peanut one better in my opinion. These Chinese pancakes (guo bing) were extremely delicious. The taro one was better as the skin tasted nicer and the filling was beautifully sweet.

All up, I can definitely recommend this place. The service was very fast and accomodating. Either due to it still being new and hence trying to provide better service, or if the service really is that good, I don't know. The hot pot soup, almost the single most important thing in hot pot, is very nice. The second most important thing, the dishes, were also good. Unlimited servings of beef and lamb so we don't have to push one tiny plate around and say "I'm full, you eat it" anymore. We ate till we couldn't eat anymore. The hand made balls were nice. There was quite a few choices for various other things. Finally, the best thing was that they had these delicious desserts as part of the buffet as well.

I think the buffet option is definitely the way to go. There's slightly more choices in the a la carte section but having buffet does not limit you from ordering from the a la carte menu, so you can have the best of both worlds. We worked out that had we chose a la carte, we would each be looking at about $40 instead of $20. This is about right as at other hot pot places, we do spend about that much.

A last word of warning. Wear clothes that are easy to wash and you don't mind getting a bit oily and smelling like Chinese herbal medicine. Dennis and I were prepared from previous hot pot experiences and wore jumpers that we were ready to wash anyway. The steam from the hot pot gets into your clothes and skin really well. You don't smell it until you leave and then its everywhere. Even my camera smells of hot pot now.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food and service is very good. Fantastic value for money if you get the buffet.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.


  1. The food looks good! Need to try it out soon!

  2. The buffet is on every day? or only weekends?

  3. Hi Hungry Hamster, thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. The food was suprisingly good for a hot pot buffet. Give it a try. It's very crowded so book ahead.

    Cenmrk, I think the buffet is on everyday. You can call them on 98909854 to check just in case.

  4. I love the names!!! They sound so cute although it makes me picture a small fat lamb floating in the hotpot :(

  5. Cindy, my friend also said that. He said it sounded like you would be eating every part of the little lamb in the hot pot. Fortunately, it was just slices of lamb that were quite tasty.

  6. Bring this on to city, please!
    I am so jealous that those Box Hill-ite get to taste good stuff ala Bread Top, Noodle Kingdom and now this steam boat earlier than us in city!

    COme on China Town, sure you can do better!

  7. Anonymous, Box Hill does have some good places but so does the city. I'm constantly jealous of people in the city who have access to so many more cheap restaurants and bakeries.

  8. Yes, can't deny you on that Thanh.
    A couple noticeable stuff that doesn't exist in eastern 'burbs:

    * High end Italians, well in fact any high-profile restaurants like Movida and Koko Black hardly exists in eastern 'burb.
    * gastro pub
    * Japanese

    Another bizarre thing that comes to my mind is lack of any pork roll joints in CBD! There are rows after rows of this type of store in Richmond and Footscray, how come there are none in CBD?

    Well sometimes I just crave for down-to-earth, dirt cheap and yet awesome food like those I mentioned before. City and surrounding areas are seriously lacking in this department!

  9. Anonymous, with the Italian restaurant thing, I can't agree more. As you may have read, I just put a post recently about finding a good Italian restaurant in the 'burbs for lunch on Fridays. We ended up at a place where the prices were expensive but nothing near the quality that you can get on Lygon.

    As for restaurants like Movida, none to be seen anywhere.

    I can think of one gastro pubs in Wheelers Hill Pub but the food there is way overpriced and not that good.

    As for Japanese, Shira Nui would probably be the only exception.

    I think they don't have pork roll joints in the city because the rent in the city is just too expensive and selling pork rolls for $3 just can't sustain a business. If you want a pork roll, come down to Springvale where every second bakery (of which there are a lot) sells a different variation of them, all freshly made in front of your eyes.

  10. Thanks for your info thanh!
    THat pork roll is still very bizarre. THere are plenty of such places in Sydney CBD so I expect the same is doable in Melbourne CBD.

  11. Anonymous, I didn't know that Sydney CBD had lots of pork roll shops. That makes it more confusing that Melbourne CBD doesn't have them. But definitely if you feel like a good pork roll, drop by Springvale and you can also pick up lots of cheap Asian groceries while you're here and eat some good Pho (beef noodle soup).

  12. Yes thanh,
    half a dozen in China town area and around 2-3 more spread elsewhere like Surry Hills and WOrld Square.

    SO any specific shop you would recommend in Springvale ?

  13. Along Buckingham avenue, there is a double story shop. Inside there must be about 4 bread shops already so you can get lots of pork rolls there. Then take a trip upstairs to the frozen food shop where you can pick up frozen soft shell crab and some exotic flavoured ice cream like mangosteen, guava, red bean, green bean, jack fruit etc.