Genghis Grill is a Mongolian Stir Fry chain that is growing rapidly throughout the United States. A Genghis Grill opened up in Tucson about a month ago, and this week my publisher encouraged me to go there. While I was slightly skeptical, as I don’t usually like dining at chain establishments, the experience ended up being fun and tasty.

Divided into two categories, the menu allows for you to either “Build Your Own Bowl,” or select from prefixed concoctions called, “Build A Genghis Bowl.”

What makes Mongolian stir fry restaurants particularly unique is how the guest completely interacts with the preparation of the food. This is especially true of the “Build Your Own Bowl” option, as the diner walks through a buffet-style line and chooses from a surprisingly large array of ingredients, spices and sauces, in an attempt to make up a stir fry completely catered to their individual taste buds.

For those not up for such a challenge, the “Build a Genghis Bowl” exists as a safe option, because the bowls are pre-designed by Genghis chefs to ensure a successful meal. There are twelve such bowls to choose from, some of which contain a single selection of meat, while others comprise of a combination of meats and seafood. There is even a vegetarian-friendly bowl called the “Buddhist Bowl,” which features tofu as the main ingredient. All in all, although the pre-fixed bowls seemed delicious, the experience of creating your own blend was too tempting, so my guest and I settled on building our own.

There are five simple steps behind the Genghis theory: choose your protein, season your protein, pick your vegetables, select a sauce and call your starch.

After our server explained the process, we wandered over to the enclosed, long buffet lines that lead up to the Mongolian grill. The experience was entertaining, and workers behind the buffet panels encouraged us several times to “fill our bowls up as much as we could.” I did not need to be told this twice, as I stacked piles of chicken with yellow curry salt seasoning, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, green beans, carrots, classic stir fry mix, pineapples and tofu into my bowl.

Selecting a sauce was difficult because of the large assortment, but I opted for the Hot Dragon Sauce, which I ladled into a separate ramekin. This was the final step in the line, and afterwards I approached the 650-degree circular Mongolian grill, which at the time was manned by three chefs cooking several inventions at once. Here, you hand over your bowl to one of the chefs, and request which starch – brown rice, fried rice, steamed rice, spiral pasta, tortillas, udon noodles – you would like to accompany your creation.

At this point you can either stick around to watch the chefs work, or you can return to your seat and wait for your food. My guest and I were lucky to experience a fire show put on by the chefs accompanied by chanting, and afterwards we were immediately presented with our steaming stir-fry dishes.

On the one hand, I was very pleased with what I had created, and also appreciated that the dish came out extremely hot. The flavor of my sauce was particularly notable, and contained the right amount of spice. On the other hand, I found the dish my guest had produced was distasteful; something about her choice of sauces just didn’t seem right. But I guess this is the beauty of Genghis Grill, because we each enjoyed our individual creations. I guess one could say this place represents the true definition of cooked to order. And, considering the affordable prices (just $7.99 for one bowl, or $9.99 for a bottomless bowl during lunchtime), why not give Genghis Grill a whirl?

Genghis Grill

4386 N. Oracle Road, 887-0012

Rating: ★★★

Recommended Dishes: Build Your Own Bowl

Price Range: Lunch Bowls: $7.99 for one bowl, $9.99 for bottomless bowl; Dinner Bowls: $9.99 for one bowl, $13.99 for bottomless bowl.

What the stars mean: Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the reviewer’s response to the food, ambience, and service. Prices are taken into consideration.

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