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Mirchi Wok in Columbia (Dobbin Rd)

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Has anyone been there yet? I believe it is owned by the same people who run Mango Grove. They have a lunch buffet, and I was hopin that it would have some more interesting fare than the usual. Pending good recs. I will definitely check it out this week or next.

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  1. I want to check out that place, too. How is Mango Grove, by the way?

    4 Replies
    1. re: stacylyn

      Ive actually never been there, but i have heard good things. Its one of the few vegatarian restraunts in the area, let alone vegatarian indian places.

      1. re: stacylyn

        Went to Mango Grove for a veg event - a local chapter of some veg group - and it rocked. Really tasty, loads of choices, reasonable/normal prices.

        1. re: stacylyn

          I am a big fan of Mango Grove. I work in the area and we go fairly often. Have never tried Mirchi Wok, always mean to but the buffet at Mango Grove intices. It is all vegetarian but they have a really good selection and a very attentive staff.

          1. re: jes

            Mango Grove is the best vegetarian restaurant between Baltimore and Washington, and IMO perhaps inclusive of those two cities.

        2. When in the area, I usually stick to the poor man's PF Chang's, called PW Chang's (aka Pei Wei). Mongolian chicken or beef rocks, especially with spicy mustard, and they also offer the lettuce wraps in a cafeteria style setup.

          15 Replies
          1. re: Chownut

            I live in Baltimore, so I'm not in Columbia that often, but can't imagine there wouldn't be better fare than Pei Wei. Seriously: there's better food around!

            1. re: snowcroft

              Not really. Columbia is chain city, and nonauthentic sushi joints that charge extra for miso soup. For chinese, you're out of luck. Even the pho joints now are owned by koreans. Indian is really bad too.

              1. re: snowcroft

                Yeah, it is kind of sad but Pei Wei is actually one of the better "Chinese" places in Columbia. Asean Bistro used to be good, but I went there about a month ago and it was awful (have they been sold?) I never understood all the fuss over Hunan Manor. The restaurant at Dorsey Search is a little better than average but everything else is very average or worse.

                1. re: little audrey

                  I agree Hunan Legend at Dorsey Search Village Center is quite good for a neighborhood Chinese joint, especially if you ask for off-menu authentic items. Their service is always friendly and professional as well. It's my favorite Chinese place in the county. Hunan Manor I heard has gone way downhill, and Asean Bistro was always awful to me. Haven't been to Oriental Manor or Hong Kong yet but am eager to try it.

              2. re: Chownut

                The best and most reaasonably priced Chinese food in Howard county is at the Columbia village centers. The Garden Gourmet at the Long Reach village center serves delicious old-fashioned "rustic" Sichuanese food, for example to my knowledge it is the only restaurant in the area other than Szechuan Best on Liberty road that makes its "pancakes" for mushu pork in-house. They use the expensive Chinese black mushrooms with the smokey flavor in their delicious Twice-Cooked Pork. Garden Gourmet gets the Gold Medal, and Hunan Diamond in Harper's Choice village the Silver Medal, they do it almost, but not quite, as well as Garden Gourmet. Hunan Legend in Dorsey's Search ties Hunan Diamond for the Silver Medal. Bronze Medal goes to the restaurant in the Hickory Ridge village center.

                1. re: elgringoviejo

                  Sounds good. My concern is whether these restaurants excel at making americanized chinese food or authentic chinese food. I'm not familiar with Sichuanese food, or Taiwanese food for that matter, as I'm not crazy about some of the spices.

                  1. re: Chownut

                    It is true that Sichuanese food liberally uses dried red chili peppers, and if that is not to your taste then I would recommend Garden Gourmet's mushu pork, which is served with hand-made Chinese pancakes and sweet hoisin sauce. The dish itself is a mildly seasoned stir-fry of pork, cabbage and a mild variety of dried Chinese mushrooms.

                    1. re: elgringoviejo

                      I grew up in Columbia and also always really liked Garden Gourment! They have a brown sauce there that they serve with the steamed dishes that is better than anything I've found since I moved away from home!

                      1. re: dcesq

                        Thanks for your reply. IMO Garden Gourmet deserves recognition for their delicious food.

                  2. re: elgringoviejo

                    My friends and I went to Gourmet Garden (not Garden Gourmet, as we discovered when looking them up in the phone book)last night. Either we hit a VERY off night, or they stand out more due to the competition being even worse than by they themselves being superior. The sauces were gloppy with cornstarch, the flavors were timid, and even the Twice-Cooked Pork mentioned above (admittedly the best dish of our meal) was nothing special.

                    Is there perhaps some "not for Anglos" Chinese menu that has the *real* stuff? I ask because the menu we got (and the food we tasted) was your basic local carry-out Americanized Chinese, though at least it was the Americanized Szechuan/Hunan version, rather than old-school Chop suey and Lo Mein Americanized Cantonese. In any case, it's not the sort of place I would expect to see an extensive Chinese customer base. While the local "Chinese for Chinese" places like Oriental Manor off of Route 40 and Szechuan Best on Liberty Road are still not quite in the same league with places like China Star in NoVA, they at least try to present real Chinese food as an option along with the Americanized version.

                    I'm afraid the Hounds let us down on this one.

                    1. re: Warthog

                      De gustibus non disputandum. I have had dishes from Oriental Manor that I thought were clearly inferior to Sichuanese food that I have had at Gourmet Garden, Hunan Diamond, Hunan Legend, and Kirby's Szechuan near the Federal hill historic district, the specific dishes being Hardened Bean Curd stir-fried with pork, Grand Duke's (kung pao) chicken with peanuts and Pock-marked Old Woman's ground pork with bean curd (mapo dofu). I don't doubt that Oriental Manor has fine food, as I have read other Chowhounds very favorably mention their casseroles, but what I really enjoy are traditional Sichuanese stir-fried dishes. Moving on, I find the mushu pork with home-made pancakes at Szechuan Best to be roughly equal to that served at Gourmet Garden, but Szechuan Best's Twice-Cooked pork not quite as good since they don't use the authentic, imported and expensive Chinese "black" mushrooms. I have had the Twice-cooked pork at Szechuan Best three times and that at Gourmet Garden six or seven times, and the mushu pork twice at each restaurant. I don't claim any particular expertise in the cuisine of HK, Taiwan, Fujien, or even Hunan, but have been eating Sichuanese fare for almost 30 years, and would conclude that our tastes are dissimilar.

                      1. re: elgringoviejo

                        Maybe they were having an off night, because the expensive mushrooms you comment on were nowhere to be found in our Twice Cooked Pork, and the spicing was tamer than most Cantonese - not at all the bold flavors typical of good Sichuan. Yes, I know that all Sichuan is not necessarily hot, but it is almost never bland, which is what our food was at Gourmet Garden.

                        It's at least possible that we did not pass the "look like they want the real stuff" test. There are many Chinese, Korean and Thai places that seem to do this - they size you up when you walk in, and if they decide (without asking) that you should get the dumbed down Americanized version of their food, nothing one says or does after that will get the real stuff. I've had one instance at another restaurant where I was brought a different dish than what I'd ordered, and after pointing it out to the waitress, the manager was called. He looked me over and said "You're not Chinese - you wouldn't like that dish. Have this instead." I never went back there again, and I let the manager know why! It's happened to me in multiple places, so maybe that's what happened here. There's just too much gap between what you describe and what we got to be accounted for merely by differing tastes.

                        One of my dining companions said afterwards that he was concerned when we walked in, because the staff looked "incredibly bored". That, too, may have played a part.

                        On another note - Oriental Manor is solidly Cantonese, as best as I can tell, so ordering anything Sichuan there is not playing to their strength.

                        1. re: Warthog

                          I eat there alot and it is possible that I have been identified as a regular who likes the real deal, as they always serve it to me well-spiced and with authentic ingredients.

                        2. re: elgringoviejo

                          Yes, I agree that if you are looking for Szechuan food, Oriental Manor, with its authentic Cantonese cooking, is certainly not the place for you. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the closest good Szechuan cooking to Howard County is in Rockville.

                          1. re: Jason1

                            Plenty of good Sichuanese cooking in Howard county. Most of the small village centers in Columbia have Chinese places whose owners worked in the kitchen at Hunan Manor back in the day. Also, Szechuan Best on Liberty road in Baltimore county is closer to most Howard countians than Rockville.

                  3. Yea, I like Pei Wei for cheap, quick, kid-friendly eats, too! Their spring rolls are yummy....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: stacylyn

                      The best thing is no tip required, although you typically get great service from the busboys who bring you your grub and your drink. They also sell beer/wine there too, and offer brown rice with their entrees. Why wait 2 hours for dinner at PF Chang's at Columbia Mall eh?

                    2. Two words: Hunan Manor

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: aubzamzam

                        Probably the only authentic chinese place in Columbia is Jesse Wong's Hong Kong.

                        1. re: Chownut

                          I had some remarkable food at Hunan Manor couple years back - has it become a phlegmy brown sauce place?

                      2. Or Jesse Wong's Hong Kong, which has greatly improved their dinner offerings since they first opened. Or Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro for more pan-Asian offerings (but great Chinese for lunch or takeout). Or drive 15 minutes to Ellicott city and go to Oriental Manor. Chinese is one thing that I feel the Howard County area doesn't lack, unless you're looking for regional cuisine not of the Cantonese/Hong Kong style.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Jason1

                          Went to Mirchi for their lunch buffet. Was near the end of lunch service (i know, not the best move). Their offerings were pretty much the standard indian buffet offerings, but they all had nice spice, and were well made standard fare.

                          The staff also made a conscious effort to make sure the food out was fresh.

                          The clientel was mostly indian, which i can only take to be a good side.

                          The place is right next to Mango Grove and is owned and operated by the same peoople. As Mango Grove is all vegetarian, Mirchi Wok has not only a seperate dining room, but completely seperate kitchens as well.

                          Truth be told, indian buffets dont really do it for me. This one had the standard fare but was of consistently higher quality and spicer than others around, so it gets top nods in this category.

                          -edit- by spicy i mean, the dishes that are suppose to be spicy actually were.

                          1. re: ingramcol

                            Why is this indian place called mirchi wok? Do they serve Indian-Chinese cuisine?

                            1. re: Chownut

                              Thats why I thought they might have some more interesting fare at the buffet.

                              I have their menu, which is pretty good, and funny.

                              They only have one section labled wok entrees, but there are only 4 of them. Described as "...Indo-Chinese specialites with recipes which have been developed over the years to please Indian palates". They are: chicken munchuran, chili chicken, fish chili fry, and szechwan chicken.

                              The buffet was just okay, but like I said, im not an indian buffet guy, or even a buffet guy (as i imagine most here are not), but I think as far as a la carte, Mirchi is def. worth a look.

                              1. re: ingramcol

                                I assume none of those 4 indo-chinese options are on the buffet?

                                1. re: Chownut

                                  Not the time I went, Im thinking they just offer the standards

                                  1. re: ingramcol

                                    Do they at least have butter chicken?

                        2. I would hardly call Sushi King and Sushi Sono "nonauthentic." Some have complained that they aren't run by Japanese, HOWEVER, the quality is consistently good and fresh (but let's not get into that battle again!!), so who cares?

                          And, while Pei Wei isn't THE BEST....it is what it is. Cheap. Quick. Tasty. Family friendly. Don't have to wait an hour for a table. Not as heavily "sauced" as most Chinese food is.

                          Not a big fan of chinese food ever since I tried Thai food a few years back anyway! Bangkok Garden in the Oakland Mills Village Center is excellent.....

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: stacylyn

                            I think when people refer to the best of whatever cuisine, anything in Howard Cty won't be mentioned, and that's very surprising, given the high median income. This county is dominated by chains. Also, there are a lot of Koreans that live in Howard County, and surprising when people talk about korean food, they talk about Annandale, not Howard Cty. None of the korean offerings in Howard are worth mentioning, although the one next to Lotte is not too bad.

                            1. re: stacylyn

                              I agree Bangkok Garden is definitely above average Thai.

                              And yes the Korean places in Howard County remain disappointing. In fact my parents end up driving to Woomi Garden in Wheaton when we're craving Korean.

                              1. re: jeanki

                                And now the couple of decent Vietnamese places and have been bought by Koreans and are dissapointing...

                            2. First of all, while Columbia may have a lot of chain restaurants in it, it probably has the best restaurants in Howard County, you just have to look harder.

                              1. mirchi wok in columbia is a place for excellent indian with many things on the menu i have not seen in other generic indian restaurants. the fusion of indian and chinese border cuisine is excellent. it is small so you might want to call ahead. unfortunatley, in spite of the limited seating, the service is not that good, though the food makes up for it. don't go there if you have someplace else to be later.

                              2. mango grove is phenomenal. the menu is diverse and the dishes are of the sort that i have never seen anywhere else. definitely try this place out if you are tired of the same old saag paneer, alu gobi etc. it is a fairly ggod size place and i have never had to wait for a table. the service is not the best, but it is better than mirchi wok's.

                              3. the best chinese in columbia are 2 shops run by jesse wong; the Asean Bistro and Hong Kong. Asean Bistro is on MD 108 near Howard High school. Hong Kong is by the lake across from the Columbia Mall. Both are excellent though I favor Hong Kong (they do dim sum on Sundays). It is the best Chinese I have had by far (and I am not a fan of chinese as a rule).

                              4. the best thai in Columbia goes to Bangkok Delight, off of MD 100 and executive park drive. Run by thai natives, they do excellent thai (and i am a thai snob). try the seasonal dishes done with acorn squash, the pineapple seafood curry, and the ruby catfish curry and of course the tom yum koung for a great experience.

                              5. the original noodle restaurant in Columbia is Noodles Corner, tucked away off of Dobbin Rd (between SCAN and the office park at McGaw). they have super noodle dishes, though the soups are better than the stir fries. I especially like the seafood curry soup and the laksa noodle soup. I have not tried Pei Wei, but i don't eat in chain stores if i can at all help it.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: salanb

                                I might have been convinced by your arguments about Columbia starting with Mirchi Wok and then Mango Grove, but after I got to how you preached about how great Jesse Wong's restaurants and Bangkok Delight were, that really cast some doubt on how well you know your grub. These places are average at best.

                                Why would someone want to come to Howard Cty and "look hard" for average grub when there's tons of better options in Montgomery Cty and NoVa where you don't need to look so hard at all? The dim sum at Jesse Wong's Hong Kong is good for Columbia, but very mediocre based on Montgomery Cty and NoVa standards. Off the top of my head, New Fortune, China Garden, and Oriental East are so much better.

                                Columbia having the best restaurants in Howard Cty isn't saying much, because besides Columbia, there's really no other town in Howard Cty that has anything good.

                                1. re: Chownut

                                  Have to say I agree with Chownut. Jesse Wong is way overrated, and the best Thai in Columbia is actually the one near Oakland Mills Village Center (forgot the name, but it's actually very good!) The one on rte 100 is very mediocre. There are still a few pockets of good Asian food in Howard County, just not the ones salanb mentioned. I like Fuji in Ellicott City, Hunan Legend in Dorsey Hall, haven't tried Oriental East yet.

                                  1. re: jeanki

                                    Fuji in EC is supposed to be the best authentic sushi joint in Howard Cty. I tried to go there once, but they were closed. Bummer.

                                    1. re: Chownut

                                      What is the name of the thai place in Oakland mills? Any recs.?

                                      1. re: ingramcol

                                        The one in Oakland Mills is Bangkok Garden and it is very good IMO, their curries in particular are delicious.

                                        1. re: elgringoviejo

                                          Yes I also love their chili fish filet and their curry puff.

                                        2. re: ingramcol

                                          Love Bangkok Garden. We always get the Crispy Whole Fish with Chili Garlic Sauce, Angel Shrimp (which is prawns in a coconut curry), papaya salad, Ground Chicken with chili and basil (can't remember the name), maybe a noodle dish. FYI....if you do carryout, the fish is actually STILL good! The fish was still crisp, and they put the sauce on the side (which was great, since we didn't even use half of it, and I made some fish/shrimp later in the week and used it up).

                                        3. re: Chownut

                                          If you do go to Fuji, go early because the kitchen staff is limited and they get overwhelmed with crowds, and the quality goes down. But when it's on, it's terrific.

                                          Another Indian place I always liked was Bombay Peacock Grill.

                                      2. re: Chownut

                                        i did not mean to sound like i was preaching. I have not eaten at those restaurants so i cannot compare. i can say i have never had a bad meal at Jesse Wong Hong Kong or at Bangkok Delight. i can not say that about any other chinese or thai restaurant i have ever dined at. so thumbs up in my book.

                                        1. re: salanb

                                          What do you usually order at Jesse's?

                                          1. re: Chownut

                                            i try not to order the same thing twice and have not been disappointed

                                            1. re: salanb

                                              Ok, but what have you ordered that you like?

                                              1. re: Chownut

                                                I really like their Malaysian curry, although it can be a little inconsistant with the level of spiciness (sometimes they make it very spicy, and it's terrific).

                                                1. re: Jason1

                                                  Is this from her ASEAN Bistro? b/c Malaysian curry is not chinese/cantonese, and probably isn't offered at her Jesse Wong's Hong Kong.

                                                  1. re: Chownut

                                                    Sorry, I thought this conversation was about Asean Bistro, not Hong Kong. I will say the food quality at Hong Kong has improved remarkably from when they first opened (in the past six months or so), so if you haven't been there in awhile you might want to give it another shot. Their weekend Dim Sum is terrific, but don't get there when they first open. Give it some time for them to star pushing out their more interesting dishes. For dinner, I'm always drawn to their cassserole dishes.

                                                    1. re: Jason1

                                                      When Asean Bistro first opened, I tried their lo mein and it was outstanding. It wasn't the usual over-cooked, over-soy-sauced, over-greased brown mush that most Chinese carryouts serve; it was non-greasy and very flavorful.

                                                      A few months ago I had a hankering for their lo mein again, but was very dismayed to find they had switched to the standard greasy tasteless Chinese-American recipe. That's what made me wonder if they were under new management.

                                    2. peacock grill is good, i but not exceptioanl in any way. i would put it among the same old standard fare as any other generic curry place.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: salanb

                                        Sorry I have to disagree. I've eaten tons of Indian food, and I find their flavors a notch above, more sophisticated preparation. Their service is nice too. I personally liked them more than Mango Grove.

                                      2. i was talking about the offerings on the menu - the food is not diverse - their menu could be interchanged with any other indian place - it is boring

                                        1. I care more about flavor than menu options.

                                          1. I love the lunch buffet. Best food around. Highly recommend for a great lunch dining experience. Love the rice dessert.

                                            1. Was one of my favorite restaurants, but the old management staff has left or is leaving back for India (homesick). (The guy who looks like Dr. Suresh from the tv show Heroes is already gone.) Last visit was still better than most restaurants, but not unbelievably excellent as all my previous Mirchi Wok experiences. I've heard some complaints about the buffet, but I always order off the menu.