The Mandarin opened at 5pm, and an hour and a half into service the place was packed. The parking lot didn’t leave space for many others to easily find a convenient spot. Perhaps the limited open hours work well in Bountiful…as it pushes customers to enjoy the delicious food during a certain timeframe and allows the staff the luxury to give their best energy in one condensed shot. All to say, this place is popular and it certainly should be. It was worthwhile to travel outside of SLC for this visit.
Even so, the ambiance reminded me of a Denny’s with a Chinese motif or a white person’s Chinatown. In the same breath, it was enjoyable to look at the décor, especially the cliché Chinese zodiac. Yet, my guests and I were seated in what felt like a quasi hallway. It wasn’t exactly awkward, but it wasn’t the best place to sit and dine. I felt that there were a couple of tables that were a last minute thought and placed in a hallway in order to serve more people. Sometimes the layout with these tables created bottlenecks within the restaurant. Still they made up for this by sporting their ability to sing happy birthday in Chinese! I guess Denny’s would only sing in English.
You might ask why I mention the bathrooms in every posting. Well let me take this opportunity and say that while I was growing up, I was taught that the bathroom reflects the kitchen. If you find a dirty bathroom, chances are the kitchen will reflect the same cleanliness. I am happy to report that the bathroom was spic and span. Unfortunately one has to navigate a bit to find them.
The server was very accommodating to us. He offered us a drink of our choice and recommended a few appetizers. Disappointingly, most everything on the appetizers section looked rather heavy – when did spring rolls start getting deep fried? As for the rest of the staff, they were attentive to our needs, noting when our water glasses had a couple of missing gulps, when our white rice bowl needed to be refilled, and when we were ready to call it a night. The service was good…we knew who our waiter was, but ultimately we were impressed with the staff as a whole. It was a team effort.
Have you ever dined at a Chinese restaurant were everything was served á la carte? Wouldn’t you think that rice comes with your dish of choice? Nope, at Mandarin you order a side of rice, but the bonus is – if you order white rice you get an endless supply of refills on it. Have you heard of that before? “Refills on rice?” Maybe they are onto something…
When determining what the quality of the ingredients were – my guests and I asked, “Who could really tell?” Most everything (appetizers and otherwise) was deep fried. Yet, having said that, the presentation of the dishes were simple and clean. There weren’t any bits of grease that were hanging onto the edges of the plate when they were dropped off at our table. The white plates made the food that we ordered stand out with vibrant colors.
The food was served nice and hot. My guests and I ordered orange peel beef, orange peel chicken, General Tsao’s Chicken, pan fried noodles and a side of white rice. The orange beef and orange chicken both had a perfect flavor, but were certainly on the sweeter side, as mentioned by our server when noting that they use fresh oranges to make this happen. Every bite of General Tsao’s chicken was cooked to perfection and had the right combination of citrus and spice. As for the orange peel chicken, it looked liked crispy pieces of chicken, red peppers and green onions glazed with a delightful orange sauce. It smells like fresh oranges picked off the tree, and the taste was a crispy chicken sweet citrus with a splash of spice. Finally, the fresh taste of the white rice was delicious. It wasn’t sticky nor was it hard – it was cooked to the happy spot right in the middle. It wasn’t like other rice I’ve tried that has been heated “under the lights” for way too long… Thank goodness! To wrap this up – I felt that the dishes were flavorful, but if you didn’t feel that way you could certainly request some soy sauce or additional sauces, and you would be hooked up in an instant.