Recently, I was contacted by the son of the owners of the Happy Sheep restaurants, which used to be the Little Fat Sheep restaurants in Southern California before they changed the name and sold some of the locations.
He had seen my post on Happy Sheep Cafe Shabu & Grill - San Gabriel and wanted to thank me.
Aww! How nice!
Free meal? Gift certificate?
How 'bout a blogger meal I suggested instead. That way, hopefully it can get the word out to others. So I invited some blogger friends and totally forgot that it was Easter Sunday. Doh! So even though a lot of people couldn't make it, I still got lots of FoWCs (that's Friends of Wandering Chopsticks). ;) Like, Gourmet Pigs, Tony of SinoSoul, Meowmi whom I met on Biggest Menu years ago, Jeannie of The World is My Oyster, Abby of Pleasure Palate, cousin Q's older brother and his wife and baby Pablo, and my friend Don. Thirsty Pig got thrown into the mix since he had blogged about Happy Sheep too.
The Rowland Heights location of Happy Sheep Cafe is to the left side of the HK2 Food District supermarket, all the way in the back of an alley. Look for the Hong Kong Fishball House, the notorious fried pork rectum I remembered from Kirk of Mmm-yoso's post, and keep going. Don't worry, the smell of the stinky tofu will dissipate once you get to Happy Sheep.
The family started with Little Fat Sheep - Monterey Park and had several locations but wanted to expand. The corporate office in China wasn't of much help so they dropped the name and the hefty franchise fees, sold the Monterey Park location to one of the employees, and now operate just the San Gabriel and Rowland Heights locations. Although they're opening a location in Taiwan soon. Follow all that? No? No matter. If you were a fan of the original Little Fat Sheep restaurants in Monterey Park and San Gabriel, just know that the same owners now operate Happy Sheep and the hot pot is still just as good.
We split amongst two tables. Boiled peanuts and pickled daikon appetizers already on the tables.
Hot pots are $3.50 per person for the broths. We chose "Nourish and tonic" and "Mongolian mildly spicy" flavors. There were also "Health & Beauty" and "Spicy Taiwan" broths too.
We got two orders of sliced beef $4.75 and lamb $4.50.
Out came the cart of food. Tripe, tendon, oysters, enoki mushrooms, squid $3.50.
Take pictures I instructed my friend Don as I handed him my camera.
How many cousins came? Jeannie asked. Just cousin Q's older brother, I said as I pointed to him. But Don called you "chi" (Vietnamese term of respect for older female)?
Oh yeah, I got him trained I told her. Haha!
Actually, the night before, Don thought he lost my number and asked for it again. Then after punching it into his cell phone, realized that he had saved me under C for chi + [my real name]. Bwhahaha! :P
Tripe $3.95. Beef tendon $4.50. Oysters $3.75. Enoki mushrooms $2.75.
Lamb meatballs $4.25, napa cabbage $2.25, winter bamboo $3.25, and bean curd stick $2.50.
Satay sauce on top, a really salty black one that I couldn't identify but think might be Chinese olives, white Chao/Doufu Ru (Fermented Bean Curd), red fermented bean curd. My favorites are all the sauces except the black one. Too salty for me.
Baby bok choy $2.50. Pork slices $4.25. Pea tips $2.25 and tong ho/tan o (Chinese/Vietnamese edible chrysanthemum leaves) $2.50.
And the enoki mushrooms going into the pot.
Cumin lamb skewers $3.25. These are sooo good! Not gamey, liberally dusted with cumin.
The big difference I noticed with this location's menu versus San Gabriel's was the variety of Taiwanese dishes so of course I had to order them.
Crispy scallion pancakes $3.50. Very good for dipping into the hot pot broth.
Oyster omelet $4.25. Best oyster omelet ever! Other versions I've seen are just basically oysters in an egg omelet. This was more of a pancake with a rice flour batter. Everyone at the table loved this.
Spicy wontons, 15 pieces for $4.50. Really good wontons with just the right amount of spicy chili oil.
Pork dumplings, 10 pieces $5.95. Good, but I liked the spicy wontons more.
House noodle $5.95. The noodles had a nice chew and elasticity, but the best part was the lamb. Really great stir-fried noodles. Everyone liked this dish too.
The waitresses refilled our broths.
The owner stopped by to say, "Hi," since his son couldn't make it that day.
Several of us ordered mango slushes since even the mildly spicy broth started to get to us by the end of the meal. That's another great difference between this location and San Gabriel's. Milk tea and slushy drinks for only $1 or $2!
As we were leaving, I glanced over at Tony's table. Egads! He said he didn't want to order the side dishes because he was in his "hot pot zone." Evidently, spicy wasn't spicy enough and he asked for another bowl of chili peppers to add to the broth. Ah, just as spicy as my friend Don likes it, and he immediately switched tables for a second round.
Even though the meal was complimentary, I asked my guests to leave $10 each for tip. The waitresses kinda freaked out when they saw all the money since they were instructed not to accept money from us. It's your tip, Tony told them, to which they were very appreciative.
Seriously, folks. I know we bloggers sometimes get invited for free meals, but that doesn't mean we should skip out on the tip or tip cheaply. In fact, we can afford to be more generous since we didn't have to pay for the meals. And if you can't afford to tip, then don't go. OK, I'll get off my soapbox now.
Thanks again to the folks at Happy Sheep Cafe for sponsoring this meal! I'm still dreaming of that oyster omelet!
March 31, 2012 Update:
This location of Happy Sheep Cafe is now closed.
Other hot pot and shabu shabu restaurants:
Cocary Shabu Shabu BBQ - Monterey Park
Happy Sheep Cafe Shabu & Grill - San Gabriel
Jazz Cat Restaurant - San Gabriel
Monland Hot Pot City - San Gabriel
Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori-Shabu Shabu - Monterey Park
Happy Sheep Cafe
18414 E. Colima Rd., #T
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
1 year ago today, Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival - Los Angeles (Thai Town)
2 years ago today, filet mignon pho Bac at Pho Huynh Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte.
3 years ago today, a little lesson on ancestor worship and my great-grandfather's death anniversary dinner.