Me and Chairman Mao
  Tiny mutton.
A few weeks ago, we finally got around to doing something I’ve been wanting to do since the first day we moved to Shanghai: eat at Little Sheep. Since I know how much sense that probably makes, I’ll explain further. Little Sheep is the name of a restaurant that’s only about half-a-block away from our apartment, which means I go past it all the time. (Update: I have recently been informed that the name in Chinese is actually "Little Fat Sheep," which is roughly 137.5 times better than just plain old Little Sheep. Although our sheep was actually not too fat at all, so maybe the name doesn't really apply?) The first day I walked by it—also, not really coincidentally at all, the first day I spent living in Shanghai—I came back to the apartment and declared to Holly that, in terms that, based on the amount of time it took to fulfill them, were obviously way less than uncertain, “We have to go eat at Little Sheep.” (And yes, Tiny Mutton equals Little Sheep. Seriously, keep up.)

Why? Three reasons. First, sheep, AKA lamb, is just plain old good eatin’, as they say somewhere, although I’m not sure where exactly. (Appalachia comes to mind, though.) Two, and closely related to the previous reason, is that the smell coming out of Little Sheep every time I walked by made my mouth start watering, and not because I randomly slobber—I don’t—but because it smelled just that good. C), because I love the sign.

Seriously, the sign is great: a happy, wool-covered sheep with cute little curling horns on his head and a nice friendly smile on his face. Which, of course, is odd, since he’s featured as the main course at Little Sheep, but that’s part of what makes the sign so perfect, as you can see:

See what I mean? With that happy-go-lucky grin on his face, it’s almost like he’s glad you’re going to be boiling him in hot oil a few minutes after you sit down. If only they sold t-shirts!

At any rate, that happy face must be popular, since it was all over everything, including the bowls and what I call the “Dinner Packs”(the green pouches in the picture), which you get as soon as you order and include a towel to wash your hands with, a napkin, some chopsticks, and a toothpick:

The face was even on the plates, which I liked so much that I tried to talk Holly into either stealing a complete set or seeing if we could buy them. Since she was apparently worried that they might clash with our non-Little Sheep-themed decor back in the US, she said no. I can’t say I blame her, but I still think they’re awesome:

But, tableware aside, what about the restaurant itself? It’s a hot pot restaurant, a type of restaurant that (those of you with any sort of higher-brain activity will not be terribly surprised to learn this) features a pot full of hot stuff, which in this case turns out to be oil with a bunch of herbs, spices, and that kind of stuff floating in it for flavor. So basically it’s like Chinese fondue, but without the ABBA music, beards, and wall-to-wall carpet associated with fondue of the traditional European variety.

Generally speaking, the oil itself has a lot of very hot red peppers in it--making it hot on a second level, I suppose--but since everyone does not enjoy feeling like a small- to medium-sized wildfire has spontaneously combusted in their mouth after every bite, you can get it without peppers as well. And even better, for those who area little bit country AND a little bit rock and roll, you can get both in the same pot, as we did:

(Side note: Do I really need to mention that the red side is the hot side? I hope not. But yet I just have, which should tell you something. But not YOU you. I mean, I’m sure you’re way smarter than most people. Way smarter …)

Anyway, once you get your hot pot delivered and boiling (every table has a burner), you order stuff to cook in your now hot hot-pot. Like, for example, beef, which may be served in Fruit Roll form for no discernable reason:

Other choices, from leftish to rightish, include fish, lamb (can’t you see Little Sheep’s smiling face?), tofu, and potatoes, which are good but have a tendency to soak up a lot of the oil, meaning they can be pretty damned spicy. Although not as spicy, thankfully, as mushrooms, which I would recommend avoiding entirely if you ever go to hot pot. (The first time I ever ate a hot pot mushroom, I thought I would vomit from the heat, which is weird but true.)

Once you get everything, you dump it all in and let it start cooking. The brown cubes in the picture below are all tofu, which apparently floats. (Coming soon: edible lifejackets!) The rest of the stuff you just let sink to the bottom and then scoop out with one of the spoons. Luckily, our hot pot wasn’t even close to vomit-hot--that should be a new phrase, shouldn’t it? Like “Damn, it’s vomit-hot out here!”--so I cooked pretty much everything in the hot side:

But on to the most important question: was it any good? I’ll let the picture below speak for itself, although I will add that if you ever find yourself wandering past a Little Sheep--which you apparently might do if you live in or even just visit LA--you should go inside. Obviously:

Also, you can tell we’re done eating at this point because the toothpick from the green Dinner Pack has been both used and discarded. After all, you wouldn’t want to leave the restaurant with a tiny chunk of Little Sheep stuck between your teeth, would you? That would just be tacky ...
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