Who is eating at the Mandarin?
Any readers eating at the Mandarin chain?
What are you enjoying?
What are you avoiding?
Are all locations created equal?
Thanks in advance
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The Mandarin is a "safe" choice for people who aren't sure they like Chinese food. Nothing too exotic, lots of deep fried stuff you can cover with bright red or yellow sauce, stir fries that don't contain exotic ingredients, etc. Plus, there are plenty of western choices at both their carving station, and at the salad bar. So, if you have grand parents who want to "try" Chinese but don't want to get too far out of their comfort zone, Mandarin is a good choice.
Even my Chinese in-laws go from time to time, but only when crab or lobster is on special, and then one of them will hang out by that station, and bring back a huge plate every time it gets restocked.
Avoid the soups - if they're not bland, they're horrid. Most of the other stuff is passable. Some of the prepared salads taste strange at times, like they've been out too long, so I usually get a small sample first to see.
Only been to the Markham and Y&E locations - can't say there's much to choose between them.
Overall - prefer China Buffet King.
Not all locations are the same, some are better than others. Overall it's not that great, very ordinary.
Everytime I go I find less and less that I actually like, that it seems to be a waste because for the price I could go out and find something a lot better.
Locations I've enjoyed more than others, whitby, pickering, heard that thornhill was good. Burlington was to be avoided, check restaurantica, the reviews there can help. Newer or newly opened locations seem to be better usually (for a while)
I don't go there anymore - ever. I do agree that it is a safe place for chinese food, b/c it is bland and appeals to all tastes.
My real complaint with this place is the propensity for cross contamination. I canot eat any fish or seafood due to allergies, but it is not so bad that I can't frequent places where it is served. The problem comes when the kitchen or in this case, other diners, do not take care to keep the utensils in the dish they belong.
I had the unfortunate experience of being there during a crab fest - and they put the two crab trays directly beside the two noodle and rice dishes that were vegetarian. People, in their MADNESS to get at the crab (I am looking at the poster who commented on his in-laws stalking the crab/lobster station for refills) would just take the noodle spoons and dip them right into the crab tray.
This is annoying and gross and I don't even want to get into the pain that it was to complain: they didn't care (or staff didn't get it).
I will definately never go back, especially because I have heard that the crab is now 24/7. No more specials, it's there every day.
People are vultures! It's all you can eat. The food isn't going anywhere, right?
Perogy, wow, that's a terrible experience to go through. Did you break out? I hope not.
I'm shocked that they didn't even do something about it. My significant other is allergic to all seafood but we go there whenever family wants to go and he's been careful too but thankfully no breakouts as of yet.
We should probably avoid it from now on, he's super paranoid (which is good of course) but something as you described above is not easily avoided.
As for the vulture comments, I absolutely agree. Whenever I go I find it more interesting to watch the people than actually eat.
I eat there occasionally when I'm feeling nostalgic for the utterly crappy chinese smorgasboard food of my youth. If what you want is strictly americanized chinese food -- lots of deep fried things in sweet, cornstarch based sauces -- then Mandarin is a decent, clean, generally fresh rendition of it.
The busier locations and busier times offer better turnover, and thus fresher food. If there isn't at least a small line when you go in, it's probably not your best choice -- you're either there at the wrong time or at the wrong Mandarin.