Finding edible Chinese food in Chinatown is harder than it sounds. I usually go to Full House -- it's open late, it's lively and it's pretty good if not spectacular. A lot of people like Hop Li, but we found it utterly forgettable. I've heard a few recs for Mayflower, but haven't tried it yet. So last night, we tried Mandarin Chateau, which was listed as an old Shanghai favorite in Linda Burum's recent LA Times article. It was a little surreal at first -- the well-lit space was completely deserted at 9:00 on a Friday night. I was about to decamp to Full House but Matt persuaded us to stay -- I think a completely private dining experience actually appeals to him. The minimalist room was updated maybe about the same year they built the restaurant called Epicentre -- the only decoration is a lighted strip zigzagging around the walls that resembles a Richter scale. The waitress obligingly points out some recommended Shanghai-style dishes, so we get a dish called shredded pork, salted vegetable and bai-yeh (photo above). It's made from bean curd skin (that's the bai-yeh) cut in a way that resembles egg noodles, mixed with bits of pork and some green bits that look like scallion or chives. It comes in a mild broth and the overall sensation is one of a stir-fried wonton soup, or a dry chicken noodle soup. In any case, it's tasty and soothing, with a very mild flavor and an addictive texture. I guess if you couldn't eat noodles, this would be the next best thing.
Spicy eggplant and shredded pork (left) is a standard dish, but nicely done, and Shanghai fried noodles are a little greasy, but sometimes you just need noodles. Other Shanghai dishes hidden on the large menu, which otherwise looks like average Chinatown fare, include Lion's Head Meatball and Juicy Shanghai Steamed Dumplings. Maybe this place is packed at 6 pm on a Sunday, but it's very odd to eat all alone in the dark, deserted Mandarin Plaza. Still, for Chinese food in Chinatown, it's a promising spot.
970 N. Broadway