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Superlative hot pots and exotica including "Chinese medicine."

Our Review

I suspect that the forlorn fish and eel that peer out from the large tank at the back of this drab room are being punished for former lives dribbled away as Chinatown restaurant designers. Mandarin Kitchen makes up for its typically utilitarian interior by doing quite a few things perfectly well, which in my view just shows that someone’s concentrating on what’s important. The menu's "braised yellow fish with seaweed" is actually tender fried fish nuggets dusted in powdered nori. Fresh noodles are tossed with seafood and cold dishes are aggressively dosed with seasonings, like the spicy pork stomach, which tasted to me like beef fed on a strict diet of cilantro. There are a lot of addictive little snacks like puffy sesame pancakes sandwiching hoisin-dressed slices of beef and plates of peanuts in dried seaweed. But the best reason to order any of these is to supplement a hot pot: spicy or regular broth set roiling with spices in cauldrons on portable gas stoves. You can get both at once in divided pots; between the two I identified sweet dates, thick slivers of ginger, long twists of ginseng, cracked cardamom pods, black beans, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, dried red peppers, sesame and cumin seeds, enough garlic to melt birthday candles, and a few bobbing, aromatic nutlike things classified by the waitress as simply “Chinese medicine.” Into this brew you’re meant to plop your choice of almost four dozen raw meat, seafood, and vegetable items including sliced lamb, beef tendon, pork blood, shrimp, fish balls, sea cucumber, napa cabbage, dried bean curd, and “black fungus.” After they’ve cooked, been plucked from the stew with little wire baskets, and eaten, the remaining broth is so rich it could power a chain saw.

Mike Sula

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Price: $$
Payment Type: MasterCard, Visa

3.9 out of 5

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