Mandarin - Fountain Valley - A Review
I tried Mandarin based on the recs I heard here. I was there for one purpose and one purpose only: to try the XLB. And, man, I've never been so disappointed.
Too bad, because even though I was skeptical of the claims that it could be "comparable" to DTF, I was hopeful. Really, hopeful. Because it is not entirely impossible that a place could make them as good as DTF. There are plenty of restaurants in SGV that do.
But my hopes were crushed as soon as I saw them brought to my table. The wrapper was already torn, and it had a doughy and sloppy texture.
They tasted like they were steamed from frozen. And of course, there's no soup in there to speak of.
To compare these xiao lung baos to Din Tai Fung's dumplings is to compare a toy fiddle to a Stradivarius.
I have pictures of the sad things...but I doubt any one is interested in seeing them.
To be fair. These dumplings were just as good as the ones I've had an A&J in Irvine.
I didn't try anything else besides the dumplings and an order of fried rice (which was competently done). You should give their XLBs another look-see. I have a feeling that they aren't the same creatures you had before, especially if the last batch you had tasted like DTFs.
I'm curious to know what you think of them now.
I went there last year based on recs from the board as well, after I had my fill of great XLB in NYC's Chinatown. And I too was very disappointed. My experience was like yours, broken, soupless XLB. But I did enjoy the green onion pancake (cong you bing?) that we ordered. If only we could bring DTF or some kind of good dumplings to OC, we'd be rich!
My sympathies. I would agree with your assessment completely. I've been to Mandarin since they first opened up years ago(!), and have been going there on and off for years now (since there are so few decent, authentic Chinese restaurants in the OC).
Mandarin's Xiao Long Bao's are average at best. NOWHERE near comparable to the best of the SGV. Over the last few years, I've never had a batch of Mandarin's XLB ever come close to something from Din Tai Fung, Mei Long or any of the other great ones.
To make matters worse, their food has gone downhill. IMHO, their sanitation has also gotten worse. I can recount at least ~12-15 TIMES (separate occasions) where we've gone and had lipstick on a teacup, or dirty plates, or gunk on the rice bowl. It's quite gross now that I think about it. After one more final mediocre meal there, we've never been back.
I also love Mei Long's dumplings...as well as their non-existent line. I'm still a glutton for punishment though. I stand at DTFs line almost once every month.
Anyway, would you be surprised if I told you there was lipstick on my tea cup at Mandarin too? But it didn't sadden me as much as those XLBs did.
It's been about a year since I've been there. I used to eat there quite often when I lived in OC/worked in FV. I'll have to go back and give them another try.
I've been to DTF in Arcadia(?), but have never had the dumplings in Shanghai. I watched people make them, but sadly, the line was insanely long and I didn't have enough time to wait. :(
One thing I did like about the XLB at Mandarin was their size. My only complaint about DTF is that I feel like a pig eating 2 orders by myself. ;)
Sad to hear about your disappointment at Mandarin.
Didn't order the XLB when I went. Our family opted for several dinner entrees, and I thought they were very good. Don't rememeber exactly what we had, but from what I could recall:
sizzling rice soup
sea scallops with some veggies
French-style filet mignon
another beef or pork dish
The standout to me was the French-style filet mignon, which I thought was fabulous.
I didn't think Mandarin was a Shanghainese restaurant, so that's why I didn't think to bother ordering the XLB. I thought their specialty cuisine was Szechuan, but I could be mistaken.