Monday, March 31, 2008

Restaurant Review - Mandarin House

Mandarin House
4020 E. Main St., Ventura
Phone: (805) 654-0933
Cuisine: Chinese

Sunday evening I took my wife and son to the Mandarin House. It appears to be a chain, so I will add that I went to the one on Main Street in Ventura. This place got high marks for both food and service at

When we arrived we were cordially greeted and promptly seated. We were seated near the fish tank, which thrilled my two year old son. The waiter arrived with our crispy noodles and sweet and sour sauce, and then disappeared. A few minutes later the waiter came by to ask what we wanted to drink. My wife ordered a Coke, but I, being a Pepsi guy wanted to see what alternatives to Coke there were. This seemed to confuse the waiter, and it turned out the choices were Coke or Diet Coke. I chose an iced tea, and immediately regretted it. It was horrible. I sucked it up and asked for a Coke to replace it. The water came just after we had ordered our drinks.

It seems to be a pattern at Chinese restaurants where a couple can order an all-inclusive meal from one of three categories, with the appetizers and entrees getting better as the price goes up. We tend to settle for the middle road, as we did last night. I tried to ask about the appetizers in the highest price level, since I did not know what Pu Pu meant. He just told me it was a combination, but didn't tell me what was in it. We ordered the other option, since we at least knew what we would be getting.

The lady who seated us came back and brought us more crispy noodles, just as our first batch ran low. The waiter arrived shortly after with the soup. He poured three bowls for us, and left the larger bowl on the table for us to finish. The Egg Flower soup was really good, and my son couldn't get enough of it. Daddy had to eat with his left hand while he fed him with his right hand, as the large spoon was a little awkward for my son.

The appetizers came next, and for the most part were pretty good. The spring rolls were the worst of the bunch, but still not that bad. They seemed to be pretty heavily infused with black pepper. After dipping them in a variety of sauces they became more palatable. The paper wrapped chicken was pretty good, as was the fried shrimp.

The meal came shortly after, and the portions were pretty large. The Kung Pao chicken I ordered was so mild that even my son could eat it without flinching. To me, if you aren't drinking after every bite, it is not hot enough. That being the case, I think this could have used quite a bit more heat. The Kung Pao was pretty much even in the chicken to water chestnut ratio, which is a good thing. A lot of places lately are adding so many water chestnuts or other filler that you don't get to taste the chicken. My wife's Almond Chicken had much more flavor, with a strong hint of garlic. We both liked it quite a bit more than the Kung Pao.

The waiter came back a couple of times to refill our drinks, but made himself scarce for the most part. I found that we had to wait longer than necessary for refills, considering the sparse crowd in the restaurant. That being said, I think I would give the service a 7 out of 10. The food would be about a 7 as well. This was a pretty decent restaurant, and we would both consider going back.

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