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Killer Dish at Mandarin Kitchen

Killer Dish at Mandarin Kitchen
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  • Killer Dish at Mandarin Kitchen

    Post #1 - July 8th, 2004, 3:05 pm
    Post #1 - July 8th, 2004, 3:05 pm Post #1 - July 8th, 2004, 3:05 pm
    Mandarin Kitchen, of spicy chicken gribenes fame, has changed management and transformed itself into a shanghainese restaurant, leaving behind the szechuan peppercorns of the past. I had a large meal there with the Vital Information clan last week.

    We had a bunch of stuff, but I want to dwell here on the "fish with seaweed" available in either flounder or "yellowfish". It is most excellent, and reason enough for the new Mandarin Kitchen to become a Chinatown standby. We had the yellow fish version: little fillets of white-fleshed fish in a light and crunchy batter threaded with shreds of dried seaweed, under a layer of loose seaweed shreds. It arrived mouth blistering hot, salty, savory, and delicious. I could've eaten 2 portions myself. I had the same dish in NYC's famed New Green Bo, and it was just as delicious here as there, although in NYC, the platter came with a saucer of seasoned salt for dipping, whereas, here the salt was apparently incorporated into the batter.

    Other things of note on the menu: cold tofu with chopped greens, preserved pig stoach in chili oil with julienned veggies, and really tasty xiao long bao, soup-filled dumplings. I would say that there was less soup in the dumplings than I'd find in my ideal world, but they were very nice and certainly deserve another go round. Also, they had a doughy fried sesame bread that was really great.

    Maybe Rob will fill in the rest of the meal. But if you go for no other reason, the seaweed fish should be enough of a draw.
  • Post #2 - August 9th, 2004, 3:37 am
    Post #2 - August 9th, 2004, 3:37 am Post #2 - August 9th, 2004, 3:37 am
    I found out a little more about Mandarin Kitchen, old and new. Some of this is second (or probably third) hand but these are the facts as I understand them.

    After Mandarin Kitchen was sold, Chef Shu went to work at Chuan Xiang Yuan in Naperville. I don't know its English name but it means Szechuan Fragrant Garden. Does this mean anything to the Naperville gang? I don't know if their menu includes the spicy chicken gribenes from the old Mandarin Kitchen.

    Mandarin Kitchen was bought by the guy who owns the barber shop in Chinatown Square. I believe the new restaurant has a new Chinese name, Da Jiang Nan Bei (loosely translated as "all over the country"), but is continuing to use the English name Mandarin Kitchen. It was inappropriate before and is just as inappropriate now, so I guess they figured there was no reason to change it. The new chef is from Shanghai and spent a couple years cooking in New York before coming to Chicago.

    My source of information, a friend who's a Shanghai native, tried the new Mandarin Kitchen once recently and wasn't wowed. He didn't try the fish and seaweed though. For whatever it's worth he doesn't think too highly of Moon Palace either. Regardless of his opinion, I appreciate the report and am looking forward to trying the new Mandarin Kitchen, especially the fish and seaweed.

    Mandarin Kitchen / Da Jiang Nan Bei
    2143 S Archer Av (next to Phoenix)
    Chicago
    312-328-0228 (not sure if this is current)
  • Post #3 - September 17th, 2004, 9:19 am
    Post #3 - September 17th, 2004, 9:19 am Post #3 - September 17th, 2004, 9:19 am
    The VI family celebrated the start of a new year last night, like good Jews, with Chinese food. And boy was it good Chinese food. Too much Chinese food at the new Shanghai place, Mandarin Kitchen.

    There are three things I love about this place. First, it is entirely easy and simple to get the house speciality, Shanghai style Chinese food. There is no hidden menu, the specials on the board are translated (look on the board inside not by the door) and the staff appreciates your appreciation for eating the Shanghai food. Second, it is entirely easy to end up with way too much food. There are about 20 appetizers, mixed between hot and cold, and on one hand these dishes, alone are not that expensive, on the other hand, I want to order nearly everyone. Then, there is a page of family style dinners where you order 3 dishes for $23 (with soup), and most of the key items on the menu are availalbe on this page including eel. Yet, you cannot stop on this page because you also have to eat something from the page of noodles and rice cakes. Third, it is entirely easy to eat so well here as the cooking is superb in nearly every dish I've tried here.

    Last night we had the following:

    Salty vegegable with tofu (or salty tofu with vegetable, I cannot find my menu) - This is a favorite of the chowhounditas, an impossible to eat with chopsticks fine dice of tofu and seaweed (or something else green and vegetal).

    Shanghai style fried tofu - This was not what I expected, well at lest not cubes of fried tofu I thought we pass off to the kids for some protein. It was a need RST to fully explain medly of tofu, some kind of strand, mushrooms and other fungi marinated in something red, I think similar to the Fukinese stuff that comes after making rice wine but without too much of the hard to handle "barnyard" aroma.

    Soup - If you need another reason to order from the family choices, this soup was it, a light brown broth with soft tiles of tofu, seaweed and earthy mushrooms.

    Pondfish in spicy bean sauce - I believe pond fish is carp, but the fish came out in thin slices, unusual for this kind of fish. BIG warning for small hidden bones, but if you appreciate the taste of freshwater fish, you will enjoy this fish greatly. The bean sauce is not that spicy.

    Homemade sesame pancakes stuffed with bits of something yellow and fluffy - Very good

    Soup dumplings with crab and pork - Very soupy. Strong crab roe flavor so you have to like that.

    Homemade noodles with chicken and vegetables - This was the primo dish of the night, and if Mandarin Kitchen had nothing else good on the menu, I would adore this restaurant just for this dish. Chewy, toothsome noodles inflused with its sauce, garnished with lots of fresh vegetables and just a bit of diced chicken.

    Chinese cabbage (baby bok choy) with bean curd sheets - Lots of vitamins and contrasting textures.

    Salt and pepper shrimps - A very crisp version, the salt making more of a crust. They were good but not as good as Happy Chef, and the only dish I would not order again.

    Rob
  • Post #4 - October 17th, 2004, 1:16 am
    Post #4 - October 17th, 2004, 1:16 am Post #4 - October 17th, 2004, 1:16 am
    WOW. that is all I can say...

    we have the half ma la soup base as well as half special herb soup base. was told both soup bases have over 60 ingredients ranging from dates / whole garlic / sesame seed / whole peppercorn / chicken / lamb / ginger / rye / ginseng / dried longan / dried peppers , etc. slow simmered than served. a minute after drinking the soup i realized there was a profuse amount of MSG amongst the 60 as well.

    we ordered:
    sliced beef
    cuttlefish balls
    fish balls
    shrimp w/ shell (frozen, ick)
    pig's blood

    vermicelli
    soft tofu
    taro
    napa cabbage
    shiitake mushrooms
    sliced rice cakes

    were not offered sha cha paste + raw egg + garlic/onion/spices ala Taiwanese hot pot style so there was no dipping sauce for the food after exiting the pot, nor was there a need. the ma la offered plenty of MA but after about 45 minutes, the 'la' went away mostly because the chili oil had been consumed.

    the service was, alas, pathetic due to understaffing. but the food and the bill - to the sum of $44 after tip/tax for 3 - more than made up for it.

    i have yet to try the hot pot @ LSC but i think i'm going to pass. i'm sick of sharing tables on the weekend and tonite was no exception. seeing dried longan in my soup base @ Mandarin Kitchen delighted me. perhaps i'm easily amused, but i think not...
  • Post #5 - November 16th, 2004, 1:43 am
    Post #5 - November 16th, 2004, 1:43 am Post #5 - November 16th, 2004, 1:43 am
    I had gone to Mandarin Kitchen before, and was not too impressed. But I heard that it recently came under new management, so decided to give it another try.
    I am glad I did! They specialize in Shanghainese cuisine, but the spicy pork stomach and spicy beef tendon cold appetizers were excellent, as good as any Szechuan restaurant.
    Next, I had the soup buns, which came filled with piping hot juiciness. The owner, Aide, took the time to explain the proper way to eat them: Place it on your spoon and bite the top off. The soup inside is steaming hot, so you carefully sip the soup out of the bun, then when finished, eat the bun. I think I could have made a meal out of just these.
    I also tried the Ham Hocks. I had to wait a few minutes for them to come out, but it was worth the wait. They came glazed with a thick, brown sauce, very flavorful.
    The waitstaff was friendly, the water was flavored with lemons and limes, and the food was hearty and plentiful. While I was there, I saw several other tables with Hot Pot on them, and the smell was delicious, so next time, I will try that.
  • Post #6 - November 21st, 2004, 9:24 pm
    Post #6 - November 21st, 2004, 9:24 pm Post #6 - November 21st, 2004, 9:24 pm
    rene wrote: After Mandarin Kitchen was sold, Chef Shu went to work at Chuan Xiang Yuan in Naperville. I don't know its English name but it means Szechuan Fragrant Garden. Does this mean anything to the Naperville gang? I don't know if their menu includes the spicy chicken gribenes from the old Mandarin Kitchen.


    Got me. I have neither heard or seen this place, and have done a little searching. Any ideas where it might be?

    Have had two meals at MK, a dinner, and dim sum.

    Dinner was quite good. The high point was the stewed pork, which was a rich, braised chunk of pork with a lovely layer of fat, in a red sauce on a bed of bitter leafy greens. A great dish.

    Have tried both the soup dumplings with crab and pork, and just plain pork. The Crab version is a little fancier in presentation, and has an added sliminess and fishiness, I think. Interesting, but sort of overwhelms the more subtle flavors of the soup. So I preferred the plain pork, which was quite good.

    Quite limited Dim Sum menu, but good. Inexplicably they were out of Congee that morning (very busy Saturday, the waitress explained, go figure). The seasoned rice dumplings (char siu, I think) were warm, tasty, filling and comforting. The Seven Treasure sweet rice was full of sweetness from the fruits and spices.

    Good scallion and egg pancakes. Particularly good.

    Service was good for me both times, but the place was not very busy at either 930am or 4pm on Sunday, as both times we went on the way to a football game. And the food was very good, and absurdly cheap.

    Thanks for the rec.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #7 - November 21st, 2004, 10:26 pm
    Post #7 - November 21st, 2004, 10:26 pm Post #7 - November 21st, 2004, 10:26 pm
    :idea: I don't know about Chef Shu, but I believe the old owner of Mandarin Kitchen owns a restaurant in Naperville called Szechuan Garden(Rt.59, across from Fox Valley Mall).
  • Post #8 - November 21st, 2004, 10:47 pm
    Post #8 - November 21st, 2004, 10:47 pm Post #8 - November 21st, 2004, 10:47 pm
    phredbull wrote::idea: I don't know about Chef Shu, but I believe the old owner of Mandarin Kitchen owns a restaurant in Naperville called Szechuan Garden(Rt.59, across from Fox Valley Mall).


    I have only been there for lunch, and it never impressed me much - but I cannot ever remember a chinese lunch buffet that did, so that does not mean much, I suppose.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #9 - March 18th, 2005, 10:40 am
    Post #9 - March 18th, 2005, 10:40 am Post #9 - March 18th, 2005, 10:40 am
    Had an unplanned dinner at Mandarin Kitchen last night, but I left my camera at home. Last night's meal was extremely homely, down to the tableware.

    The menu was:

    Scallion pancakes - I was never a fan of scallion pancakes. I always found it to be too greasy. But my friends finished it all with no problems.

    Crab soup dumplings - Always a winner.

    Stir-fried "long li" fish - Unbelieveable. Completely blew me away. Simply stir fried with woodear mushrooms. Gingery, with a hint of wine. Simply amazing.

    Pork with bean curd sheets and preserved vegetables - Not a fan of the preserved veges (xue chai), but this dish changed my mind.

    Shanghai soup (yan du xian) - Written about on this board before. Nice and peppery, perfect for the cold weather we have been having.

    Eight treasures taro pudding - Aide gave this to us on the house. This "pudding" was served hot, and has red bean filling inside, and a mash taro paste outside studded with cherries, raisins and other fruit. Mashed taro is a traditional Chiu Chow dessert that I grew up on, but hated when I was kid. The red bean filling was really good. Aide said that they mash them by hand, and it's less sweet than the ones in the grocery store. This was very good.

    Dinner was $41.50 for three before tip. Last night reminded me that I had to plan a dinner there. I will post the details.

    P.S. Before anyone says so, I used to work with Aide (the owner) before. So yes, we are friends.
  • Post #10 - October 18th, 2006, 8:29 pm
    Post #10 - October 18th, 2006, 8:29 pm Post #10 - October 18th, 2006, 8:29 pm
    I went to Mandarin Kitchen last night with my boss and my brother. I had been there two times previous for hotpot and had really enjoyed the food. As an aside, both times we had been there for soup we had tried to order the sesame buns and had been told that they were out. We substituted scallion pancakes and were pleased with the pancakes. They were denser and thicker than the average offering, but were crisp and had a good chew without being doughy.

    My boss has noticed that my brother and I go out to dinner often during the week and always have good stories to tell (thanks to LTH mostly, we have been going to TAC, LTH, Sweets and Savories, Honey 1, Hot Doug's and early week specials at Sola, Deleece and La Sardine). He requested that we show him some good exotic eats and we went off to MK.
    Fortified by some drinks at a a local bar, a six-pack of grolsch and a bottle of Maker's Mark, my bro and I took my boss to Chinatown. We ordered the following for apps:

    -Jellyfish salad-- jellyfish is a favorite of my brothers and mine and it added the air of being exotic while not having any sort of strange or offensive taste of its own. It was one of the better jellyfish dishes I've had (so many are far too oily). Plus it was a nice palate cleanser for the....

    -Spicy beef tendon--I've never had cold tendon before. This had a good level of heat to it that my boss, a fan of spicy food, enjoyed. Good flavor , good texture and a lot of heat. I would classify this as really good drinking food (beer and bourbon flow freely when there is heat like this).

    -skewered lamb with cumin- this is one of my brother's favorite dishes. He has spent about a year in China and this was his favorite street food there. Greasy, juicy, tender and slightly spicy with a lot of cumin flavor. Cumin and lamb is one of my favorite spice/meat combos.

    -pork soup dumplings--- we tried to order the crab and pork but were told that they were out. So we got some plain pork soup dumplings. I'm not a huge fan of soup dumplings but they were quite good. Broth was flavorful and the skin had a good texture. they were served with black vinegar but without ginger (which I've had and enjoyed at Phoenix)



    Our main course were basically the ones most gushed about on LTH (I think it shows what a great and dependable forum this is that I would order dishes I've never had before while at a dinner trying to culinarily imprerss my boss based solely on your recs and pics). Our picks:

    -Fried yellowfish in seaweed batter-- so so so good. The texture of the batter stayed crispy and non greasy as we sat and picked at it for at least an hour. Best fried fish I've ever had. My boss commented that he would have liked some sort of dipping sauce, but this was before we tasted it. I feel that the subtle but excellent taste of the seaweed in the batter would be masked by all but the most subtle of sauces. I remarked to my bro today that I thought that the addition of seaweed to the batter was ingenious and he replied that he thought the texture of the batter was even more remarkable. It was kind of like the "tastes great! less filling!" argument. But, does anyone know if this is a popular dish elsewhere and I am just now learning of it?

    -Homemade noodles with seafood. Great toothsome noodles in a tasty brown sauce with seafood. Another great dish. I think the standout aspect for me was the texture of the noodles and sauce--not a huge seafood element in the dish.

    -Pork Hock In Brown Sauce-- Very good, but we were very full by the time the dish came out and i cant really comment much to it. Very tender pork and a lovely presentation with the spring green baby bok surounding the dark pork with its sauce.

    I like this restaurant very much and plan to take friends and family here when they visit the Chi.
  • Post #11 - October 19th, 2006, 8:53 am
    Post #11 - October 19th, 2006, 8:53 am Post #11 - October 19th, 2006, 8:53 am
    Let me add one dish to the panoply. MK's braised duck is served in a rich brown sauce (a little sweet with a hint of heat and lots of green onions and a mushroom or two). You might want to bring a knife tho, since the bird's intact, and the butter knife provided just didn't cut it (yet I did manage some considerable bone cleaning without once sending the bird soaring across to the opposite wall altho I did launch a plate or two).
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #12 - December 18th, 2006, 2:05 am
    Post #12 - December 18th, 2006, 2:05 am Post #12 - December 18th, 2006, 2:05 am
    Would anyone happen to know offhand what kind of greens the "vegetables" of "homestyle noodles with chicken/seafood and" fame are? I'm sure this is super obvious but I'm completely clueless about this sort of thing and I wanna stirfry some.

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