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Khublai Khan's (Edinburgh)

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  • Be Jamie
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      14.09.2001 05:50
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      • "Be Jamie"

      Update: Just a quick addition to say that, contrary to what I have said lower down this piece, it transpires that this place is perfectly suitable for vegetarians. Just ask the nice waiters and they will go and 'throw' your bowl on a separate veggie only grill, so you needn't be tainted by those meat-eaters amongst us. Have you ever been to a restaurant and when the meal has come, thought, 'hmm, lovely, but I wish they had added a bit more garlic'? Or have you ever really fancied a dish but been put off by one of the ingredients? If so, this restaurant for you. If, on the other hand, you fancy yourself as a bit of a budding Gary Rhodes or Nigel Slater or, heaven forbid, Antony Worral-Thompson then this restaurant for you. Even if you just fancy the idea of a reasonably-priced, fun and sociable night out with a friend or ten, this restaurant is for you. Let me reiterate: This restaurant is for you. But I guess you'll want some details, so... Kublai Khan's is a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant. This, for the uninitiated - which until Saturday night included me - means that when it comes to the main course, you personally collect together your meat, spices, veg, rice etc and then hand it to a very nice man with a very large metal hotplate who cooks it all up for you, going back to the 'bar' as many times as you like. In the case of Kublai Kahn, the only option in the evenings is their Banquet menu, which is incredibly good value at £15.50 for three courses. The starter selection is small but should hold something for everyone, featuring around five choices including boar terrine, soup and salad. These are served to you by attentive waiting staff and in the short time it takes for them to arrive you can peruse the 'recipe place mat'. This recipe card essentially details the lists of spices you need to mix for each dish. The emphasis is on the 'eastern', with some Thai-oriented com
      binations, some veering towards the Indian curry end of the subcontinent and others firmly nailing their Chinese colours to the mast. They all have quirky names, which I am sorry to say, I can't remember at all, but are largely bad puns based on Mongolia... Hordes drawers that kind of thing. Also on the 'menu' are a few handy tips, such as not mixing your meats (though fish is ok) and going easy with the incredibly salty fish sauce. So, starter out of the way, you are given your bowl and off you pop to the incredibly large meat/veg/spice fridges. There is a choice of around 7 types of meat and fish, including pork, lamb, yak(?!), beef, shark, chicken, prawns, mussels and tuna. Between our party of four we sampled virtually all of them and they were all of a high standard with the lamb winning particularly high plaudits. There was also an immense selection of vegetation to graze on, including brocolli, carrots, cauliflower, kidney beans, peppers, sweetcorn, onions and about six or seven other vegetables I could only guess at. The 'staples' on offer were wild rice, tofu and noodles. Once you have piled your dish high (or not so high) with goodies and added your spices, you give it to the one of the chefs who slaps it unceremoniously on the hotplate to cook. This is where I must add a word of caution. If you are a strict vegetarian this place is probably not for you, as, inevitably there is some slight mixing of the dishes. Although they largely keep them separate with huge wooden spatulas, it is inevitable that as they turn each persons dish some mixing may occur. This is also why this restaurant would be totally unsuitable for those with nut allergies, as crushed almonds are on offer. For the rest of us, however, this unexpected meeting of minds and dishes can be quite a pleasant surprise, although I did seem to find sweetcorn in all my dishes even though I never selected it once! A few tips as regards the foo
      d gathering. It may be worth getting a small portion initially as I, accidentely, did. This put me neatly out of step with the other diners meaning that I didn't have to queue as much as everyone else. As far as the portions go, remember that the food will shrink, but don't pile your dish too high as the nicest way to enjoy your meal is to make multiple trips and try different dishes. If there is a queue it is worth starting from the opposite side, say where the meat is instead of the vegetables and working backwards to speed things up. And remember to pick some form of liquid, whether it be coconut milk an oil or a sauce, as the hotplate is very very hot and dries things out a lot, so put more in than you think you will need. As far as hygiene goes the place is pretty spotless. The plate is cleaned after each dish is cooked with remnants scraped into a hole in the centre and the chicken is all pre-cooked so no danger of catching any nasties from that. Once you have eaten your fill, the waiting staff step in again to offer you the dessert menu. This features a rather yummy bannoffie pie, banana cheesecake (which I am assured was yummy too), a chocolate pot (though sadly no-one ordered this so I couldn't pinch any) and a range of sorbet and icecreams. Coffee is on offer for under £2 and beer with your meal will set you back £2.30 a pint. This place gets very busy on a weekend night and is popular with Stag and Hen nights, but that doesn't mean it is rowdy, there is just a lovely buzz of people enjoying themselves. The only downside is that this means you need to book well in advance - I've lost count of how many times we have tried to book into this restaurant and failed - as people tend to stay all night, and it also means that it can get very busy at the barbecue as tables of ten all get up to get a serving at once, but even queuing can be sociable with a few mates. It kind of reminded me of fondue without the
      70s kitch and with more food. Ultimately, this is a great place to go for a total meal experience. The food is good and plentiful, you get to play at being Fanny and Johnny and, most importantly, it won't break the bank. A three course meal for two including four pints of beer, cost us £44. And if you are feeling particularly pleased with one of your own culinary creations, you can fill in one of their recipe sheets to be entered into their monthly competition with a free meal for two in the offing for the winner and membership cards granting you 10 per cent off a meal midweek for everyone. Suffice to say, there is good reason why Kublai Kahn's is fully-booked every weekend.

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