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Mandarette (Los Angeles CA)
||8386 Beverly Boulevard,|
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2006 Issue: 13(2) page: 37
S.B.S., editors of Chinese Restaurant News, say this is one of the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants of 2005. Some of our readers wonder why. It is listed as a Los Angeles Favorite in publications of this city and it gets other kudos. Find it on the corner of Orlando Avenue, and note it calls itself Café and Bar. As we approach, we wonder why anyone would sit at its small outdoor tables to enjoy both traffic and fumes.
Inside is blessed with beautiful pictures on the walls, a framed Imperial gown, and imperial foot coverings. The chairs are covered with tan silk, top to the floor, its fabric with Chinese writing woven in. The setting for their sixty-odd seats indoors is lovely.
On a weekday afternoon well after lunch, the place is hopping with two Chinese gentlemen among the mostly female Caucasian crowd. The menu is extensive and we await a top Chinese meal. But when we view a table-top menu, we wonder about the Dumplings with Cheese and Crabmeat and the Strawberry Shrimp. The menu includes other items to think about. Should we go for Lion’s Head Soup? We opt for more traditional Chinese dishes.
The Hot and Sour Fish Soup arrives and looks lovely. The fish is abundant and fresh. The only 'hot' is a few drops of chili oil cooked in, the 'sour' seems on vacation. The Tofu with Pickled Vegetables and 1000 Year Egg dish redeems the kitchen crew. It is cold, covered with lots of small pieces of egg, loads of slivered scallions, and much minced pickled Sichuan cabbage. When the waiter sets it down he recites: "Here is your Tofu with Garlic." Clearly he never tasted it nor even looked at it. Garlic is never promised nor delivered, or the kitchen made it differently this time. Never mind, it is called a 'small plate' but is medium and marvelous.
Tofu Skin Roll, which the menu says is made with lily flowers, bean sprouts, black mushrooms, and home-made soy sauce, comes next. Lily flowers are absent as is any soy sauce. When asked, the waiter advises: "I guess this is how they made it in the kitchen." We request a menu, show him the description, and he graciously offers to replace the dish. We query about the home-made soy sauce and he boasts "They make it in house but probably ran out.'
In its stead, we ask for Cabbage and Wood Ear Mushrooms Sauteed with Ginger. What the menu says is received; what it does not say is that the dish is bland and boring; needs soy sauce, garlic, or other goodies. Folks at the next table offer their own litany of complaints. We ask out waiter if we can cancel and just pay for the other dishes. "Sure" is his response, and we do. Food may be healthy, freshly made, and pleasantly presented, but wait staff and kitchen folk seem to have no clue. They need to read and adhere to the menu; to taste it, too. Though there are dozens of diners, we are in Los Angeles but a few days; and as our readers say, there are many super restaurants to try...so we scoot off to another one.
So why do we review it? A few readers complain about a few top 100 selections, this one included. We want to see, savor, and say if there are valid reasons. Readers need to know we care; and why and how the winners are selected. Here are some of the reasons why an eatery makes it to the Top 100. One important criteria is the number of times local press applauds and prints their kudos. Clearly, not everyone in the press corps is as sophisticated about Chinese food as our readers. We thank them for sharing their experiences and hope this and other information keeps coming. We will pass it along.