Saturday, June 09, 2007

Taste test: Mandarin Chateau

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.
Mandarin Chateau
970 N. Broadway
Mandarin Plaza
(223) 625-1195


ipsedixit said...

Mandarin Chateau = money laundering front?

Ok, in all seriousness, people just don't go to Chinatown anymore. The diaspora of Asians to SGV has forever changed the dynamics of chinatown -- both in terms of talent and clientele.

Anonymous said...

but some Japanese people still go for Dim Sum lunch on Fridays for 2 hour lunch--

voodoochild said...

This is the best place in Chinatown per my boyfriend's Taiwanese family--it's best to come with many people to Mandarin Chateau and get one of their set menus.

The rice cake dish is excellent, as well as the fried fish pieces with black vinegar sauce--it's my favorite.

They're never too full, especially late, but ALWAYS good and worth it.

They have the BEST duck I've ever had, much more flavorful and meaty than anything I've ever had from Sam Woo.

I'd suggest you go again with a crowd of people.

Charles Rosenberg said...

Mayflower is very cheap and very good for the cost. There is better Chinese food in Chinatown but it would be hard to find better Chinese at a better price. Popular with the local Philippino community.

Anonymous said...

the house special shrimp there is delicious!

Vinny said...

Charles, it's F-i-l-i-p-i-n-o. And on behalf of the Filipino contingent, we most often prefer Full House, if we can't make the drive to the SGV.