Mandarette is where magic happens. Literally! My friend is totally obsessed with Dexter and spent the whole day on a notable (annoying) looking-up-Michel C. Hall-on-the-internet-bender. We met up for dinner at Mandarette that night and Michel C. Hall walks in with us! He even smiled at her! She turned to stone, starstruck–or having a heart attack– then her face lit up with pure bliss. Needless to say, we “had to” walk past his table all night while “going to the bathroom.” So, if there’s an LA celebrity you’d like to run into, think intensely of them all day, then you too might see them at Mandarette!
But I’ve digressed without even starting. Let’s get to the REAL reason we’re here: FOOD!
We’re hungry girls and not shy about expressing of primal need to eat though ordering copious amounts of food. But this is Los Angeles and we all care at least a little about our health. Fortunately this isn’t oil drenched, corn syrup sauced and excessively deep fried Chinese food. Mandarette’s food is light, fresh and healthy in all the ways cheap Chinese isn’t.
We began with everyone’s favorite, Edamane ($4.95)! Okay, so this isn’t exactly a Chinese dish, but it is classic Asian dish. It’s also incredibly difficult to mess up. I guess if you under salt the furry little soy pods… but these were not under salted… so we can all agree: They are perfect!
My friends tonight are not vegetarian, but ‘amused me’ by letting me order the Deep Fried Soft Tofu appetizer ($5.95) and in the end, they loved it! The silken cubes are dredged in a light layer of delicately crisp corn starch and slathered in a brown garlic sauce. Crunchy rings of scallion add the perfect accent. The sauce is a little bland for my taste, but this was quickly remedied with the next dish.
I love chewy starchy things: mochi, summer rolls, boba, scallion pancakes! Unfortunately, these Scallion Pancakes ($1.95) don’t quite fit the bill. Stiff and dry, the scallion disk is more like a flatbread then a floppy pancake–but it’s served with a bold deep plum colored sauce. The waitress said it is plum sauce, but it tastes more like Hoisin to me. I added the sauce to the remaining portion of Deep Fried Soft Tofu and gleefully devoured the tofu’s remains!
My friend ordered the (pork based) Hot & Sour Soup ($6.95). Though this dish is “for two people”, the bowl is huge and could clearly serves more. My friends went gaga over this steamy soup laced with ribbons of egg white, mushrooms and scallions. If these were not proper ladies they would have been rolling on the floor in existential joy.
Mandarette has an extensive list of 13 vegetable dishes. Each incited me. It was hard to narrow it down. But I’m a professional eater (sort of, maybe… why are we arguing about this?!), so I honed my sights on the crisp snap of the Pan Fried String Beans with Fresh Garlic ($9.95). I love the dry oil-less wrinkled skin around juicy green flesh of pan frying string beans—and these are perfectly executed. With shards of aromatic garlic and salty soy sauce, I ate my way through half of this dish… all on my own!
My meaty friends supplemented the meal with this meat and scallion dish (I don’t remember what it was) and Szechwan Noodles ($8.95), a theatrical dish of minced pork and spices on egg noodles—you can see the picture of the performance at the top of the post.
But my absolute favorite of the evening was the Tofu Skin Roll ($10.95). This is not an actual “roll” but “unrolled” thin sheets—or skins—of tofu, sautéed with bean sprouts, black mushroom and greens in an ultra light sauce. The chewy clumps of tofu skins are addictive! I’ve been cooking with tofu skin rolls are home for years and cannot understand why more restaurants don’t serve it. If you haven’t tried this form of tofu, you need to get to Mandarette and taste for yourself!
8386 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048