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Raskin at Little Sheep Hot Pot; Mudede at Oriental Mart

Photo: Little Sheep Hot Pot

Hanna Raskin checks out the "real" Little Sheep Hot Pot in Bellevue, which she describes as China's version of Applebee's. "Mongolian-style hot pot, mild and lamb-centric, is as collegial and spirited as Swiss fondue—but hasn't yet acquired the kitschiness of an overplayed fad." The chain, which is ubiquitous in China and expanding stateside, has a signature broth "crafted to showcase lamb" and the highly involved recipe "reads like a sorcerer's shopping list." Oh, and did we mention the broth?

Broth is the basis for everything that happens at Little Sheep. There are two versions: house original and house spicy, although tables which can't reach consensus can go halfsies, ordering a bowl segmented by a yin-yang curve of steel. The spicy broth earns its rust-red sheen from a dollop of chili oil; since the peppers aren't simmered into the soup, it's not much hotter than bowling-alley buffalo wings.

Servers "are sometimes overly protective of first-timers," nixing unnecessary vegetable requests and getting in Raskin's face to make sure she didn't order the chicken feet on accident. "While swiping meat and mushrooms through soup is the central activity at Little Sheep," the lamb wonton, meat pies and barbecue-beef skewers are also hits.

And one final note on the broth: "the soup smacks of cumin," says Raskin, and "hours after leaving Little Sheep, I wondered if I had cumin in my hair." [Seattle Weekly]

The Stranger's Charles Mudede lunches at Oriental Mart, "a family kitchen in a public space." The Filipino spot represents the culture's "famously global Filipino diaspora," using ingredients like fish tips, previously castoffs given to Filipino laborers in Alaska. Also: he begins and ends the meal with communism. [The Stranger]

Little Sheep Hot Pot

1411 156th Ave. NE, Ste. A Bellevue, WA