Do you ever miss Mandarin Deli in Chinatown and Little Tokyo? Long before I knew about the subtleties of Chiu Chow cuisine or the merits of Chun King versus Hong Yei, or where on earth is Valley Blvd., I loved the scallion pancakes, fish dumplings and hand-cut noodles at Mandarin Deli.
Temple City is a fur piece past Chinatown, but the food at Mandarin Noodle Deli is comfortingly similar to the Mandarin Delis of yore. The storefront looks like it used to be a luncheonette that likely served up chocolate malts and pork tenderloin sandwiches until the Asian influx. The menu resembles dumpling houses like 101 Noodle, but with a few additional main dishes (shredded pork with bean curd, fried boneless chicken with rice) and cold dishes (cold beef tendon, tofu salad, jellyfish). Refreshing, mild San Tung chicken salad, above left, showered with roast garlic, cucumbers and cilantro, makes a good starter.
Rustic pork and shrimp dumplings are of the sturdy variety with plenty of chopped scallion, and a bit lighter than the fried potstickers. Usually a vehicle for vats of bad oil, Mandarin Noodle's onion pancakes are nearly greaseless, which is good when you're guzzling two orders, like we did. But Mandarin noodles with pork and vegetables (bottom right) are somehow spicy and underflavored at the same time, and less impressive the dumplings and pancakes. Our ravenous teen guest was assuaged with a plate of cloyingly sweet orange chicken that owed more to Green Village's fried eel than to Panda Express, and our waitress, who was concerned about us getting enough greenery, talked us into a plate of green beans that were a bit soggy and greasy. Hot and sour soup wasn't quite up the level of the sweet and sour soup at 101 DumplingNoodle, but the addition of green peas was certainly different.
The verdict: A good spot for pancakes, dumplings and noodles that's more of a real restaurant than some of the smaller dumpling houses; but some items are inconsistent. We didn't make it to the beef noodle soup, which seems to be one of the must-orders. Cash only, no alcohol.
Mandarin Noodle Deli
9537 Las Tunas Drive
Temple City, CA 91780 (626) 309-4318