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[MSP] Mandarin Kitchen

  • c

I've always been a huge fan of Mandarin Kitchen, and I finally had my first
post-remodeling visit yesterday. While the new interior is very nice, I wasn't
as impressed with the food as I usually am.

We actually went to have the buffet (something we pretty much never do),
but the buffet is gone. The lunchtime crowds have vanished as well- there
were only two other customers when we walked in at 11:45am.

The salt-and-pepper squid was just OK, not as tender and flavorful as usual.
We were hoping for either drunken clams, clams in XO sauce, or those monster
oysters with ginger and scallions. But they didn't have any clams or oysters available.

I'll have to try again in a couple of weeks. It was probably just an off moment
for them. Has anyone else noticed a decrease in deliciousness at MK?

To cheer ourselves up, we went to the Tea House for lunch today.
Everything was awesome- whole tilapia in spicy pork sauce; boiled lamb
in spicy sauce with cabbage and sprouts; cold conch and cucumber app;
and Chung King shrimp. Mmmm.

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  1. Curiosity question: how long have they been open since the remodeling? Days? Weeks?

    1 Reply
    1. re: KTFoley

      I'm not certain how long they've been open. A friend of mine thinks it's
      been about three weeks.

      That raises an interesting question- do restaurants that remodel and reopen
      need the standard "new restaurant grace period" to get back on their feet?

      I don't know if the kitchen staff is the same, but the front of house folks
      were definitely the same.

    2. My wife and I eat at MK pretty frequently, both for latenight dinners and for dim sum on weekends. We are both discouraged by the 'new' place. I despise eating on plastic tablecloths, and the price increases are more than a little wild. We nearly always order a small lobster with salt and hot pepper, which has usually run about $15, now it's $22.

      The late night crowds are gone, but the dim sum crowds are still going strong.

      Personally, the old place had more charm because it was all about the food there. Now, it feels uncomfortable because the atmosphere is stiff and quiet. I wish them no ill will and hope they'll get rid of the plastic table cloths and loosen up a bit. Their new private rooms require a $600 minimum order to use.

      And to the point of the original post, YES, I think the food quality is suffering.

      1. I think its been about 3 weeks.They now have a koi pond in one corner and a visible "oven" with various meat hanging in it (along with a lobster tank) when you go in now.The tables for two are WAY too big,you'll be lucky to grasp your partners hand across the middle!

        And the prices went up considerably-the only thing under 10 bucks at night is the Vietnamese soups,and they are only served after 9 PM.

        I miss the lunch buffet too-it was a Bloomington bargain!

        1. We went to the new format a week ago for Dim Sum. Rather disappointed as well. Eating on a stack of plastic sheets was odd -- especially consider the considerable price hike and new brocade wallpaper. We were seated at the small room and the cart-pushing ladies seemed to ignore us all the time. The owner told us she would fetch some dishes for us but never did. Alas, gone a favorite of us of long time.
          What is the better choices in town now?

          1. We went to MK for the first time about a month ago, didn't realize at the time it was probably only a few days after reopening but we were suspicious considering the bar was about 1/2 complete.

            We had some not very adventurous people in our group so I was forced to order for the masses. Dishes I would expect to be somewhat consistent style from city to city like Kung Pow, Garlic Chicken, etc. were somewhat odd flavors at MK. Is MK only good at the more adventurous dishes?

            1. boy do I miss the buffet! I had to pay $9 for the duck after renovations. Great duck, but once you've had as much as you want in the buffet it's hard to pay that much for so little.
              I'm afraid I won't be back unless the buffet comes back.

              1. I just went there for the first time tonight - I am never, ever in Bloomington. I found the plastic table cover annoying - they didn't even fit the table, and the overleaf between two different sheets came right in the middle of the table, where my plate was.

                I had Singapore Rice Noodles. Mildly spicy, a bit dry, and the shrimp was a little tough. Decent flavor, though.

                Egg Rolls and Shrimp Toast appetizers. Underwelming, lacked flavor.

                My dining companion at the sizzling beef steak with black peppers. This was a good dish. and was easily big enough to serve two. Beef was fork tender, good flavor on the sauce.

                The menu there is impressive. I'll be in that area a lot in the coming weeks - I'll probably stop back to try other things, even though it isn't nearly as good as my favorite Chinese place - Evergreen.

                I've never had hot pot, so I think I'll give a try. There aren't too many other decent places in that end of town to eat. It's not far from the Afghan place, though.

                We were there on Friday at 7:30, and I was astonished at how many empty tables there were.

                There were a lot of Asians in there eating, which is usually encouraging. Some of the dishes looked good. The answer comes in the flavoring of the sauce, though.

                9 Replies
                1. re: pgokey

                  They do seafood and traditional mandarin dishes best. Skip the stereotypes (kung pao, etc) and you'll do well. We love the salt and hot pepper dishes best (any of the seafood dishes done this way) as well as the hong kong style seafood (lots of crispy fried garlic all over it). Seems really weird to me to cover the tables with cheap plastic tablecloths just to avoid laundering the linens. I'd rather eat on the old tables and a paper placemat, personally.

                  1. re: HuaGung

                    I saw some poor guy who ordered sweet and sour chicken - ugh. Strip mall food.

                    My dining partner made her choice based on what the Asian couple next to us was having - they clearly knew the gems of the menu. It became apparent that they have certain menu items to please the "Americanized" crowd, and then the rest of the menu was where their pride went.

                    Thanks for the tips there - they'll be handy. I saw a number of their lobster and prawn dishes go out, and they looked great.

                  2. re: pgokey

                    >>>"There aren't too many other decent places in that end of town to eat. It's not far from the Afghan place, though."

                    I don't do dinner in Bloomie very often but I work down in that part of town and have had a chance to scope out places for lunch.

                    Tandoor Indian - lunch buffet but a good one, with vegetarian and lamb options, off American Blvd a couple of blocks from Lyndale.
                    Falafel King - better than the one at LynLake, with a full bar, on S. Lyndale at 84th.
                    Kimson - I love their seafood pho; avoid their buffet like death, on S. Lyndale near 86th.
                    Sawatdee Thai - not great but they have a few decent things, on S. Lyndale near 86th.

                    and a little further afield on S. Portland:
                    India Cafe - dossa to die for
                    Kabobs - quirky place, Dara liked it
                    Tacos Morelos - try the seafood soups

                    Unfortunatly, Ketsana Thai is no more.

                    I tried Da Afgan once for their lunch buffet - much preferred Tandoor. Da Afgan's seemed "too Indian" (what a lame thing to say, but that's really how it came across). I imagine they are much better for dinner.

                    Kabobs Restaurant and Meat Shop
                    7814 Portland Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                    Tandoor Restaurant
                    8062 Morgan Cir S, Minneapolis, MN 55431

                    TBS India Cafe
                    7826 Portland Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                    Kimson Vietnamese Cuisine
                    8654 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                    Falafel King
                    8405 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                    Sawatdee Thai Restaurant
                    8501 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                    1. re: Loren3

                      Falafel King is only, at best, OK. I wouldn't suggest it over any other franchise in the area. The service was poor and the waiter didn't understand English at all, so delivered the wrong orders.....after a way too long wait, to begin with since we didn't order the buffet. At "best", our gyros were OK. I ordered lamb shwarima and my daughter ordered the Kofta Kebab. We both got a variation of a "gyro". The waiter's speaking English was excellent, but apparently deciphering was bad enough during the ordering that he just ordered what he wanted because.... we asked about the dishes he placed in front of us and were told "yes, it was what we ordered", (but it wasn't at all!!) and then, since we were on lunch hour, we just ate what we got and paid for it and won't return again - ever - (Our motto: too many other places to try with good food, and too little time to eat it all, then when you find a keeper it's tough to get back there!!!!)

                      As an aside, we did order and receive the falafel side order, and they were on the dry side and not anything wonderful that we'd been lead to believe. Abu Nader still sells the best to date! His deli is located at Raymond and Como by the St. Paul Campus of the U of MN.

                      1. re: tart1

                        I wouldn't cast off Falafel King for one bad experience. I've dined there a few times since they opened a few weeks ago, and it's been good each time. Several of my workmates have lunch there once a week, and haven't been disappointed yet. And I would not liken it to a franchise by any stretch, any more than French Meadow or Sawatdee Thai or Tacos Morelos could be called a franchise. They are a locally owned chain, and even at their worst are an improvement on franchise food.

                        And, I recommended it here specifically because it's in Bloomington, and not in St. Paul. I'm not saying it's the best falafal, that wasn't the point of either the poster's question or my response. Similarly, Kimson is probably not the best pho, and Sawatdee is not the best Thai, and for that matter MK is probably not the best Chinese. The point is, these are decent restos in Bloomington that a 'hound can find a decent bite to eat without having to resort to a genuine franchise or chain.

                        1. re: Loren3

                          Has anyone been to Mandarin lately. I was thinking of trying the dim sum there but it sounds like everyone thinks this place has gone downhill after the remodel. Am I better off heading to Jun Bo?

                          1. re: dave43

                            I can't speak to the quality of dim sum at Mandarin Kitchen, but I would definitely recommend Yangtze over Jun Bo. Much better, fresher flavors.

                            1. re: dave43

                              I haven't been back to Mandarin for Dim Sum since it changed. I've eaten there two or three times and been pretty underwhelmed compared to the pre-remodel Mandarin Kitchen. The first time in, the live shrimp was exciting and tasty. The last time in, the shrimp tank looked .... tired. So I ordered beef.

                              Compared to anything in the Twin Cities except the Pre-remodel Mandarin Kitchen, it's still pretty good. But compared to itself 3 years ago...well, it's not the same place. And that's a shame.

                              1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                The Dim Sum at MK never really did suffer post-remodel, so if you enjoyed it before, you're probably all good to go now. We've had the dim sum many times post-remodel.

                                My wife and I have been there a couple times late night recently and had fine food. And, happy day, they have seen fit to take the plastic sheeting off all of the square tables. Mysteriously, it remains on the large rounds.

                                The food quality was fine, and like we used to enjoy, although the crowd still is largely missing late at night.