In my neck of Ontario, California, it’s hard to find decent Chinese food within walking distance.
Sure, I could truck out to Pasadena for divine dim sum or down to Irvine for killer Korean – but, it’s Friday night and I’ve got Game of Thrones on DVR.
Luckily, just down the street sits the unassuming, but thoroughly tasty, Mandarin House. On the northwest corner of Mountain and Mission, the House sits squat in the center of a strip mall, nestled between a computer repair store (¿those still exist?) and a cigarette shop. The strip is a bit of a dive, but not enough to be worried.
From the moment you step into Mandarin House, you can tell it’s a higher grade of fast-food Chinese (4/5 Yelp Stars). Don’t get me wrong, the House is in the same general category as Panda Express and Pick-up Stix—cheap, fast, American/Chinese fusion for the largely non-discriminate gourmand—but Mandarin House stands above their competitors for a few simple reasons: they deliver (5 mile radius); they do NOT use MSG; and, most importantly, they carry a large variety of foods and flavours, not just six different takes on Orange Chicken. Of course, all the variety in the world won’t overcome bad food. On this count, Mandarin House is well-prepared.
Their menu is vast (as such a restaurant should be), but some of my favourites:
- Wor Wonton Soup: Large chunks of chicken, healthy-sized pork wonton, shrimp, snap peas, baby corn, water chestnuts, light broth. This soup is delicious. They serve it in a pint container (perfect for re-use later), so it’s easily two meals, and they don’t skimp on any of the ingredients. Definitely worth buying again.
- Beef and Broccoli: A very tasty dish with enough for two or three meals. The beef is well-seasoned and not heavily breaded like some recipes. The broccoli is crispy and fresh.
- Singapore Chicken: A thin rice-noodle dish with onions, carrot shreds, scallions, yellow curry for colour, and a touch of heat (a small touch – ask them to add more). I always get it with chicken, but they’ll make it with whatever protein you prefer. Again, ¡huge portions! Possibly four meals. Plus, it comes with a side of small white rice, ¿‘cuz you need white starch to balance out the yellow starch?
On a down-note, most of their appetizers seem to be store-bought and largely forgettable. I’m usually a fan of anything fried and doughy but the Potstickers are sickly and Egg-rolls are mushy. Avoid them all. The Crab Rangoon is alright, for processed, imitation crab.
All and all, Mandarin House is a good Chinese food restaurant in the realm of “filling, fast, cheap, and close”. The staff is pleasant and efficient, if not overly chatty, and they’re very quick with both delivery and take-away orders – which is important, because Tyrion is waiting, and he’s short on patience.
Bonus pro-tip: Most of their larger meal containers are sturdy, lidded, microwave and dishwasher safe plastic. Good for left-overs AND boxed lunches during the week. ¡Never buy tupperware again!