Tonight, my coworkers and I went to Margaret Kuo's Mandarin Restaurant. We've heard from several local sources of how wonderful the food was... but for me, a self-proclaimed Chinese food expert... (OK, actually I'm not when it comes to the sheer vastness of the various cuisines; but having Chinese parents must qualify me for something) I was quite skeptical.
The restaurant is in a small strip center with an unassuming, at best, exterior. However, once inside... it's a white table clothed, upscale (for Chinese) "ambianced", Zagat rated (2008) eatery.
After asking my companions (four of us in totoal) what they liked or not... I order a wide variety of "comfort food": XiaLongBao and Minced Chicken Lettuce wraps for appetizers. There were six XLBs in the steamer, a little on the smaller side, but very tasty... each holding a wonderful slurp of hot soupiness. It was served with a traditional black vinegar and sliced ginger "sauce". Very nice. The lettuce wrap was also enjoyable, some of us added a drizzling of Chinese hot sauce to enhance the flavor! Very fresh ingredients... including the iceberg lettuce "cups".
The main course was Beijing Duck... which came with a disclaimer that it was actually a Long Island Duck cooked the traditional "Peking way". A gong rang out to announce the arrival of our duck, and the chef expertly carved the duck on to an awaiting plate where the waiter started to role scallion strips, plum sauce, and duck skin and meat into a whole-wheat "pancake" wrap. Again, very nice! It's not as if we were in Beijing... but given the fact that we're in Malvern, PA... it was a great surprise!
One of my co-workers had to have Moo-shu Chicken, but the others were more trusting me to order for the table. So along w/ the MSC, we had Yang Chow Fried Rice, Singapore Rice Noodles, and Beef w/ Flat Noodles. Also a plate of Sauted spinach just so we could have some simple vegs. I know these are all starches... but we had some dietary considerations and one of the guys needed a very basic introduction to Chinese food. And I'm happy to report that he turned in a glowing review... and now wants to try more "traditional" dishes.
So, the service was good. The food tasty and plentiful portions. The environment was also conducive for light conversations without having to strain over the voices of the other guests. I'd highly recommend locals and visitors to the Malvern, Wayne, etc. 'burbs of Philly to drop in on the Mandarin Restaurant for some down-home Chinese goodness.
NOTE: this is a BYOB restaurant, so prepare your bottle of wine or six-pack of brew if that's how you like to enjoy Chinese cuisine.
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