Tons Mongolian Grill in Arlington is a lot like the franchise Genghis Grill. Both are buffets, and both challenge my self-control.
Tons isnt as fancy, though. There are no shiny metal bowls or brightly colored walls, and the light bulbs are almost all a different color. But overall, the operation is identical.
Choose from trays and trays of crunchy vegetables, like bamboo shoots, broccoli, celery, carrots, corn, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts. Its up to you pick one or have them all.
Protein choices include beef, chicken, sausage, pork, crab, shrimp and even tofu.
Theres virtually no limit to how much you can add on. One guy had a pile so high we could see its majestic glory from across the restaurant.
At the end of the line, you flavor your dish with sauces, including a garlic, ginger, soy or oyster sauce; a cooking sherry; hot oil; or sesame oil. The only thing missing are the seasonings, like the dragon salt or cayenne pepper offered by Genghis Grill.
Your first trip down the line will probably fail. Ours did.
Our second attempt turned out better, so before you go all out, here are a few tips that will help optimize your experience.
First, everyone starts with two bowls. At the end of the line and on the grill, both bowls are combined into one giant pile. So just toss ingredients into either bowl it doesnt matter which one.
Second, when you get to the sauces and oils, dont just add splash add copious amounts. Why? At the grill, most of it falls off during cooking.
Lastly, ask the grill cooks to add an egg to your order, and when theyre done, ask them to top off the plate with sesame seeds for added texture.
On the way back to your table, stop by the sauce station one last time for an extra splash of whatever sauce you used before. Follow it with a dash of salt and pepper, and youll be set.
Unlike its franchise competitor, Tons doesnt charge depending on how many trips you make to the grill. Theres one price and one price only about 9 bucks (with tax) whether you eat one noodle or a noodle buried under a dozen strips of beef.
There isnt even a menu. The Mongolian buffet is the only dining option.
If youre expecting the fancy commercialism of a franchise, Tons might not be for you. It looks like a worn Asian restaurant more than anything. But the ingredients are fresh and plentiful, again, challenging the best in self-discipline.
But really, who needs self-control when youve got stretchy pants?