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Review: Stir Krazy Mongolian Grill is more interesting, boasts better selections, than most buffet-style spots

Looking to try something new but not scary? A restaurant that’s a little novel but still accessible (and affordable)?

Then you’ll want to check out Stir Krazy Mongolian Grill, just opened across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel, between Firkin on Paradise and the KISS mini-golf attraction. Outside of some casino buffets, it’s one of the few places in town offering Mongolian barbecue

What is Mongolian barbecue? Well, it’s not Mongolian, and calling it barbecue is a stretch. It’s basically a cross between stir-fry and teppanyaki (the type of Japanese table-cooking you find in places like Benihana) that reportedly originated in Taiwan. Instead of cooking at your table, the chef prepares your meal on a large circular grill in the kitchen area. While it’s on display, and diners are encouraged to watch the preparation, there’s none of the knife-twirling or other tricks associated with teppanyaki.

Apparently, a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this place — and waiting, and waiting. Stir Krazy launched its website in February 2012, promising it was “coming soon.” As the opening was repeatedly delayed, the place managed to rack up over 1,300 likes. Unfortunately, the operators still seem to be playing catch-up. At this point, there’s no official website, and when I called several weeks after it finally opened, I got a voicemail telling me the restaurant would be open in a few weeks. Rest assured, however, it is now serving food.

And the way it’s serving that food is buffet-style — something I normally loathe. It’s all-you-can-eat for $12.95 a head. Diners are given a large bowl, and proceed to fill it with a selection of raw meat, vegetables and noodles. They then add their choices of sauces, and take it to the grill. There, the chefs quickly cook it up in four or five minutes and plate it with or without rice. The result is pretty similar to any good stir-fry you could make at home in a wok. But the variety, convenience and price make it worth leaving the house.

Most of the ingredients are high-quality and fresh. The first thing you see on the buffet line are thin slices of beef, lamb, pork and chicken. These are sliced and frozen in-house so they can be presented in the buffet without spoiling, and be cooked thoroughly in just a few minutes. I’ve tried three of them and they’ve all been high-quality, especially the lamb.

On the flipside, I wasn’t impressed by the proteins offered a bit further down the line. I completely passed on the sliced pepperoni, the unappetizing sausage nuggets and the cubed ham. And while the tiny salad shrimp weren’t bad, their size made them hardly worth the effort. Of course, the biggest waste at most buffets comes from people loading up on shrimp, so perhaps this is their way of preventing gluttonous diners from pigging out and driving up the price. More likely, the smaller shrimp are easier to prepare quickly. Either way, the sliced meats and large selection of fresh vegetables make for a better meal. The lo mein noodles are also pretty good, despite their strange orange color.

The final station on the buffet line is dedicated to sauces, all of which appear to be made in-house. Since my bowl included noodles, my waitress recommended I add three ladles each of the house sauce and the sweet sauce, plus a ladle of one of the six flavored sauces and some chopped garlic. That’s a total of seven ladles of sauce for a noodle bowl. While the ratio of flavors was perfect, that’s far too much oil for my taste. I know Americans like their Chinese food greasy, but when I returned for seconds I cut back to about a third of that, and was much happier with the results.

The dining room at Stir Krazy is large, and feels like a cafeteria. While everything is brand-spanking new, and the paint is bright and fresh, it’s a bit sterile. Hopefully they’ll get around to adding a little artwork soon to give it a more comfortable vibe.

In the meantime, the food is simple and good, with just enough of novelty to make it interesting. Add the reasonable price, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

STIR KRAZY MONGOLIAN GRILL 4503 Paradise Road, 998-9994. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, and follow him on Twitter @almancinivegas.