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Do people seriously like Mandarin?

I don't know about you guys but I think that all of the food there is pretty bad. Like honestly, I've read that some people think that this place has the best prime rib in town and I'm going to say I doubt that. I understand that there's a market niche for "eat as much as you can for the price", but couldn't you just take your money and buy like 3 sandwiches at Porchetta and Co and stuff yourself with something that tastes good rather than spend $30 bucks on instant mashed potatoes and westernized Chinese food?

I guess I'm just wondering, do people actually like the food or is it just about value.

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  1. "two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Woody Allen

    The fact the portions aren't small explains why people like Mandarin. Next?

    1. Personally, I don't like going to any kind of buffet. However, if forced to go to a Chinese buffet, I would choose the Mandarin over others. Regarding the roast beef, it was not too bad at all a few years back on their supper spread. I've only been more recently at lunchtime when they switch to less desirable cuts of roast, so don't know about the current quality at suppertime. Value?....I don't find much there, in fact I'm pretty sure Mandarin is at the higher end of the scale. Regarding your main question, (do people seriously like Mandarin?), I think people vote with their pocketbooks. So the answer to that is self-evident. Are people idiots for liking Mandarin? which may be your real question, well some people (like you) will say yes....and many of them read Chowhound.

      4 Replies
      1. re: T Long

        I agree with T Long, that the roast beef isn't bad. While the Chinese food served is Westernized, it's freshly cooked, frequently replenished, and usually ok/fair, and sometimes pretty good, for what it is. There's certainly plenty of Westernized Chinese food that's worse than Mandarin in the GTA, and Mandarin's food has been better than the one meal I had at Woo Buffet.

        It's mostly about value, and Mandarin offers a good dining value if you're 6' 4" and weigh 275 lbs. It's not a good value if you count your calories and/or eat less than 2000 calories a day. Whenever I have dined at Mandarin, it's been chosen by friends who have big appetites, or are married to people who have big appetites.

        It's also a good place to bring people who have trouble deciding what they want to order/eat.

        Anyone who the knows the art of buffet knows that you fill up on the shrimp, the roast beef & the crab legs, not the mashed potatoes. ;-)

        1. re: prima

          I'm glad you pointed this out. I find there's no advantage for me to go to a buffet -- I have a small appetite and I physically can'y eat enough to make it worth the price. Plus, I'm a vegetarian, so my options tend to be very limited (and inexpensive, like salad bars, which I can get cheaper elesewhere).

        2. re: T Long

          You must be kidding. As I've posted here before, China Buffet King is far superior to Mandarin, if you're at all interested in Asian food. CBK sushi actually has fish (OK, mostly salmon, but it's still fish). CBK offers items like Peking Duck and pot-stickers, instead of western roasts and pizza. If you go on a night when CBK is busy, the steam tables are refilled frequently so that the food is fresh and relatively tasty.

          Mandarin is good for people who want to think they're trying Chinese food, when they're really more interested in Western stuff.

          -----
          China Buffet King
          9737 Yonge St, Richmond Hill, ON L4C8S7, CA

          1. re: FrankD

            thanks for statin the obvious Frankie, I think people know that Mandarin is a Chinese-Canadian style buffet, and people are OK with that. CBK is decent for sure, but Mandarin has a bigger selection, high turnaround of products and to me, it feels cleaner, and except for a few Chinese dishes that you mentioned, its got a lot. They do use Salmon in their sushi as well. Im no Sushi snob but what they have at Mandarin vs CBK there isnt much of a difference...

            Also, I cant recall seeing Pizza at Mandarin, but atleast with their Western style items, they have options for the people that want to go out with the family for dinner but are too afraid to try anything too Chinesey(is that a word?), and I gotta say I like their grilled items/roast...

        3. Mandarin is not my go to place for usual dining out however it does serve a purpose. There are times when a group wants buffet for various reasons: large diverse groups or my family, happen to be in the area and have a bizarre craving for buffet - one price and you can taste 100 different things - whatever. It is what it is. Is it a fresh, multi choice buffet that will please a number of people - yes. If you are looking for anything else - don't go.

          2 Replies
          1. re: juliewong

            As juliewong suggests, Mandarin is a good place for a diverse group looking for decent value, who aren't too-too demanding. Like a group of my friends, who drag me to the Mandarin on Woodbine Ave. two or three times a year. They love the place. And I've learned, if you're not too critical, you can eat quite satisfyingly at dinner time. Some items are good, others a washout. The above-mentioned roast beef is respectable, and you get it rare or medium-rare if you ask for it. Fresh-tasting horseradish to go with it. Also tasty: the salad bar, some of the Chinese dishes, and the soups (better hot-and-sour and egg-drop than many sit-down restos). I've learned to stay away from the sushi bar and the bland desserts - and most everything else, now that I think of it. Food trays regularly replenished, so most everything's fresh if not exactly top-quality. Good service - used plates are quickly removed from your table. Altogether, a well-run joint that knows what its customers want. Discount for seniors. Dismal wine list, though most customers don't seem to care - they prefer Coke. Some wines well-priced, others not so much.

            1. re: juno

              Agree!
              However, just stay away from their 'Dumpling Festival'!! IMO, it is a ploy where they try to use 'fancy terms' to lure the uninitiated to their CHEAP, tasteless and ultra-filling carbohydrate products!! A plate of those and one will be more than half full and have no room for their more expensive items! Thats how they make money!! A plate of their pot-sticker dumplings, say a dozen, would cost less than $1 wholesale!!! Yet they will fill up your stomach to a degree like a piece of $10 prime-rib!!

          2. It's a good choice for large groups, esp those with young kids. It's a safe choice with good selection if you have groups with varying dietary restrictions. I agree it's the greatest, but the good is adequate. I do like the prime rib, particularly the bones! As I have very young children, places where it's easy for them to get what they want and be a little bit loud are much appreciated! :)

            1. At the risk of damaging any chow credibility I might have, I will admit to occasionally eating at Mandarin. Voluntarily. Without complaint.

              Growing up, I ate that style of westernized Chinese food frequently, and while I am now aware of its total lack of authenticity, that doesn't mean some of it isn't tasty. And when you're dealing with deep fried and plunged into corn starch based sauces "Chinese" food, Mandarin is one of the better examples of the genre -- the turnover is high enough to keep the food fresh, and the quality is, on the whole, okay.

              So, yeah, if what I want is Sichuan or Hunan or Cantonese or Congee or Dim Sum, of course I don't go to Mandarin. That would be silly.

              But if I want sweet and sour pork, then Mandarin's version, peking pork, is really quite tasty.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Jacquilynne

                Growing up Mandarin was a regular spot for the family to dine, and I never had any complaints. There are lots of options and most things are decent. I dont mind their sushi at all, their grilled items are good, their prime rib is good, and all the other options are decent. Maybe I dont have a snobbish sense of taste, I dont feel the need to go "authentic" or spend a few hundred on a single meal from a high rated restaurant, so for what it is, I dont mind it at all.

                I dont want to say its gone downhill, but its not what it used to be. They used to have Crab Legs every day, and at one point they even had Lobster, but that was probably 15 years ago. Its not just about going to the communal trough and filling up, they have a good variety of items so I can have what I want, as much or as little. The place seems pretty clean, the food is fresh, the price is reasonable, what more could you want?

                And really, to say Mandarin sucks, you must compare it to similar restaurants, and of the American-Style Chinese Buffets in and around Toronto, Mandarin has always been one of the better ones...

                1. re: Jacquilynne

                  I'm not going to lie either. I've eaten there with some buddies a few times and I didn't complain. I love food but I'm not a snob. When I hit Mandarin, I know what I'm getting myself into. It's junk food. It is what it is and I don't think they are trying to mask it or pull one over on us. Would I take a date or my S/O there? Hell no. Would I go again with my buddies to hang out and eat some junk? Probably. While I'm outting myself on here, I'll admit that after a night of drinks I crave McDonald's breakfast. Sue me, lol.

                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                    Well put Jac and I concur. I will add that you need to go when it's busy. If you get a high turnover rate the food is actually decent.

                    And most people on here tend to lose perspective. Most of us grew up on westernized Chinese food and until adults thought it was authentic. Now we find out it's not and we don't like it all of a sudden??

                    DT

                  2. We're going there for Mother's Day lunch, on Saturday.
                    It's not the best, but as others have said, with a large group, varied ages etc. it's not a bad option. Lots of choices for the kids, and they can eat ASAP, no waiting. My Mom, can be as choosy as she likes. My family is a mix of different heritages (Scottish, Chinese & Guyanese). There is something for everyone.
                    For Westernize Chinese fare, it's pretty passable...and this is coming from someone who is of Chinese heritage.

                    1. Julie Wong is correct in stating that buffet do have a place for those that are not too demanding and wants variety. Where else can I satisfy my craving for Roast Beef, Kalbi, Sushi, Fake Borscht soup, Onion Rings and a Chocolate fountain all in one sitting. I guess buffet allows people to try new things within their comfort zone.

                      To my family I do concede when they want to go to a buffet. So to satisfy my curiosity and to please them I suggested Dragon Pearl since it recently opened. China buffet king isn't what it use to be so now my family's default is Imperial buffet. Does anyone remember Genesis buffet near Vic Park and McNichol? To me, Mandarin is also too commercialized when I see those specials like the moon festival or chinese new years.

                      1. If the OP's question were to be re-phrased "Do you crave going to the Mandarin?" my answer would be no.

                        But they do a few things well that stand out as many have said and for me the fact that everything is fresh is important. It just says to some extent there is care in the preparation and presentation. I'm sure everyone here has experienced where the opposite is true. I also appreciate the variety which is what I am paying for when I go rather than for the 5,000 calories worth of admission.

                        When I look at the question from the point of a wannabe chowhounder, tho, now we're just having fun Because one of the draws of the place is to serve everyone, the food ends up being just a little bit on the bland side. There can't possibly be anything offensive or challenging to the delicate palettes of the herd. As critical as almost all CHer are at least we're not afraid to go over the edge and try something that might stand out.

                        I seriously DISLIKE the saccharine greeters giving the canned welcomes. Almost as annoying as entering a Walmart.

                        1. Mandarin is terrible. There are other better Chinese buffets. Only reason we go is for the all you can eat crab.

                          4 Replies
                            1. re: neighborguy

                              I haven't been to them for a while, but China Buffet King and Star Walk offer more authentic Chinese food like steamed whole fish, duck tongues, red bean soup etc.

                              -----
                              Star Walk
                              123 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H3M9, CA

                              China Buffet King
                              9737 Yonge St, Richmond Hill, ON L4C8S7, CA

                              1. re: Teep

                                That would be true only if "authentic" = better which some people believe (I don't). Not a fan of China Buffet King and especially not a fan of the Star Walk (both are zoos imo), but my qualifier is that I've not been to either in over 5 years (naturally since I didn't like them). I enjoy both Chinese-Canadian and the more "authentic" versions of Chinese cooking if well prepared and presented. For me, the Mandarins are superior buffets. There are so many better places to get "authentic", but not so many better places to get Chinese-Canadian....which has been a hot-button subject here.

                                1. re: Teep

                                  I can't imagine wanting to eat any of those things off a buffet. That seems like the sort of 'real' food, I'd want to actually sit down and order.

                            2. It's certainly no worse (and often better) than you average hole in the wall westernized Chinese food take-out restaurant that you'd find in the 'burbs. Do chowhounds really go in there expecting the quality and selection you'd find in your favourite Chinese restaurant on Spadina or in Markham? If so, of course you're going to be disappointed. It's intended for people who want to load up on deep fried shrimp, fried rice, and s & s chicken balls with the neon red sauce------and that's OK! The prices at dinner are a bit of a rip--even if you're a big eater, but the dishes they're serving are all generally okay taste wise. They're certainly not worthy of the negative hyperbole that they invoke on this board.

                              We don't walk out of Swiss Chalet shaking our heads wondering why the people eat there. It is what it is. We know they're not serving up organic, free range chicken at Swiss, so why do we expect Mandarin to be Lai Toh Heen?

                              -----
                              Lai Toh Heen
                              692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: Brain of J

                                You have a good point, Brian. Mandarin and buffet in general are jack of all trades and master of none. I don't know who many years has it since I last touched a s&s chicken ball.

                                That's the other thing that bothers me in their commercials when Mandarin claims to be "The masters of taste". Shudder.

                                1. re: geekwithspatula

                                  "That's the other thing that bothers me in their commercials when Mandarin claims to be 'The masters of taste'. Shudder."

                                  That's no worse than Burger King using that name, which means their burger is the best (and we know it isn't). Even funnier, apparently Mandarin even sells a COOKBOOK in their restaurants so you can make all that great food at home :-)

                                  I may not like it and you may not like it but you can't fault them for success. Money talks and BS walks and clearly they're making money hand over fist.

                                  One simple observation I make out here in Durham that tells me they're doing just fine and their competitors are not: every week or two we'll get in our junk mail, 2-for-1 coupons for both Great Wall Buffet (Pickering) and Imperial Buffet (Ajax), and the same coupons also appear in the free local papers (Snap, Retail Pages, News-Advertiser). Not only that, those places also advertise the fact that "We accept competitors coupons".

                                  So clearly they're falling all over themselves trying to beat Mandarin in Pickering... which almost never advertises (we might get a take-out menu in the junk mail every 6 months if that) and NEVER has coupons. It's always a full parking lot in front of the Mandarin in Pickering. And these are people paying full price.

                                  Mandarin is whupping their asses and they know it. Until I start seeing Mandarin 2-for-1 coupons in my mailbox or in the paper, Imperial and Great Wall aren't hurting them at all.

                                  -----
                                  Great Wall Buffet
                                  1099 Kingston Rd, Pickering, ON L1V1B5, CA

                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                    They definitely have great marketing to perpetuate their name. I think they have it so ingrained into the general public that most people will say Mandarin when you ask about buffet. That is no small feat to accomplish. In essence they do have a monopoly in the buffet biz. It's just 'the masters of taste' is a bit too cheezy for me.

                                    The other buffets are simply hoping to get the spillover or people that can't wait for the long lines at Mandarin.

                                    1. re: geekwithspatula

                                      In other words (in this market) Mandarin is to buffets what Tim Hortons is to donuts and what Costco is to wholesale clubs. Imperial, Krispy Kreme, and Sam's Club never had a chance against the incumbent and de-facto monopoly. It didnt matter that Imperial charges less for the same food, KK has WAY better donuts (not even up for debate), or that Sam's Club charged less for memberships and had short checkouts that moved faster. The incumbents still whupped them bad.

                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                        You can't lump Costco in with the other two. Costco is much better than Sam's.

                                        DT

                                        1. re: Davwud

                                          I disagree, I say they're equal, and in Canada they were pretty much clones of each other (in the U.S. there is a noticeable difference in the store layouts).

                                          The difference was Sam's charged less for the membership and for a lot of their products, and, because they were the least popular of the two, you didn't have to deal with long checkout lines and chaotic parking lots (Costco at Warden and Ellesmere is hell on earth to me, I refuse to shop there). Those were selling features to me in favor of Sam's, along with the fact that there are no Costcos in Buffalo.

                                          This is why this was a fair comparison. Even if, say, Country Style charged 1/2 the price for coffee and donuts vs. Tim's they'd still get whupped.

                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                            Also, Country Style coffee is horrible, while Tim's is just unremarkable.

                                        2. re: TexSquared

                                          Adding to your examples then many people would say that Sony makes the best TVs. That would be the public perception but as CHers we are more informed about our options. There are many friends that have not had a fresh KK dount yet (and not the kind you buy at petro canada) or heard of a Sam's club south of Steeles. I love to cheer the underdog. That is why we CHers will go out of our way to get the what we like and not what is convenient or because it's being blasted by ads. The incumbents go out of their way to make a unique/better product to the market. The saddest is when an incumbent is a victim of its own success and quality drops for the sake of profits or an incumbent that got squeezed out of business even though they had a better product. It was sad to see the downtown KK close. Is the Sam's Club in Richmond hill still open up there? Look what happened with vhs and beta (let's not get into this debate). Now that I have heard Little Nicky's making good fresh donuts then I would go out of my way to go there instead of going to Tims when I am in the mood for donuts in the area.

                                          1. re: geekwithspatula

                                            Sam's Club is gone from Canada. They closed down all six Ontario stores 2 years ago.

                                            I cheer for the store that gives me what I want at a price I'm willing to pay. If it's the underdog, even better.

                                            As for your "saddest" point, worst of all is when the incumbent gets arrogant and puts out poorer quality product (and/or downsizes servings), raises prices, and GETS AWAY WITH IT. That's what irks me most about Tim Horton's. Any other restaurant that tried to water down their coffee, replace fresh baked goods with previously frozen stuff and make them 25% smaller, while raising prices, would suffer a loss of customers. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN.

                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                              What Timmy's need is a good kick in the butt by an actual competitor like dunkin donuts or someone else. Timmy knows they have the lion's share of the market and getting greedy while people feel like there isn't anything can do about it. Now the HST on the coffee and donuts is another story all together. I totally understand how you feel Tex!

                                              I remember when subway just came here and I thought they were overpriced and would be happy with mr.sub with their lower prices. When mr.sub increased their prices to their competitor and did not improve their product then I changed since I wasn't getting value from mr.sub anymore. Quiznos is off their high horse now and just fighting with the rest of the bunch. There was a time when I was willing to pay $15 a sub and get almost as much meat as a deli sandwich. Now they are not that much different from the rest of the pack.

                                              1. re: geekwithspatula

                                                I think people gotta accept the fact that Tim Hortons is what it is. Do they sell Donuts? Id rather call them Donut Shaped cakes with some kinda glaze on them. Do I hate them? No, to be honest, I dont mind them at all. Their Honey Crullers are great still. and their Old Fashioned Glazed/Plain donuts go good with coffee.

                                                As far as their Coffee, Maybe its not for everyone but I dont mind it. Ill admit that they arent very consistant with their Coffee, sometimes its burnt tasting, but when its good I really like it. Their sandwiches are decent, simple but decent, and who doesnt like an Ice Capp on a hot day??

                                                The big thing about Tims is the convenience factor. Its in every small town, all along the highway, in probably every mall, and in places like Toronto you can hardly go 2 blocks without seeing another Tim Hortons. All that and they have a drive thru that is opened 24 hours. It might not be so good to warrant its success but its not so bad to condemn it completely. It is what it is.

                                                OH and I dont like Quiznos for some reason, Subway is ok for their deals but I still love Mr Sub!

                                                And Tex, I agree, Mandarin is synonomous with Buffett in Toronto. I miss Town and Country and Ponderosa, I guess the Chinese just muscled in and took over the market lol...

                                                -----
                                                Town and Country
                                                76 Dunlop St W, Barrie, ON L4N, CA

                                                1. re: jmarcroyal

                                                  "I think people gotta accept the fact that Tim Hortons is what it is."

                                                  As a contrarian, I understand what TH is and how they got to where they are. But it doesn't mean that I will willingly resign to their dominance and join the ranks of zombies that mutter "timmies... timmies... timmies..." all day long and drink the stuff by the gallon and willingly buy their other crap.

                                                  They are what they are, but doesn't mean I will give them my money. I will continue to rip them at every opportunity and shun them even if they're the last restaurant on the face of the earth. I'd sooner starve to death than eat there.

                                                  1. re: jmarcroyal

                                                    I loved Mr.Sub when they had pineapples as one of the toppings. Another topping that they still have that I don't see any other competitors are button (canned) mushrooms.

                                                    Subway has been able to saturate the market with gazillon stores also just as Timmies so in a sense they are just as guilty.

                                                    What about Mother Tucker's? Are they still around the Warden and Eglinton area? I haven't the Ponderosa name in ages. Brings back memories.

                                                    1. re: geekwithspatula

                                                      It's now called Tucker's Marketplace and has moved to a new location in the same area (now it's on west side of Warden north of Eglinton). If you want to enjoy non-Asian buffets it;'s either Tucker's, Frankie Tomatto's, or drive to the USA.

                                                      Subway (and similarly Starbucks) have saturated the market but certainly don't dominate the way TH does. They haven't been able to brainwash successfully. I don't know any Subway addicts.

                                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                                        There's plenty of good Indian buffets.

                                                        DT

                                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                                            Fair enough. I just don't think of it as Asian though.

                                                            DT

                                  2. I know people who really do LOVE Mandarin, which I find absolutely dumbfounding! But I'm telling you, those people really exist!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kwass

                                      Mandarin was awesome in high school. It was a Sunday ritual among my friends, 6 hungover rugby players with teenage appetites testing the limits of all you can eat. Can't say I've been since grade 12 though.

                                    2. I agree with others that Mandarin is great for large family gatherings of diverse ages especially because a good number of my extended family are those who LOVE Mandarin. I like the vegetables... cooked but always crispy and colourful. Certainly I like the food there better than another place I'm sometimes dragged to... the Emperor... Imperial??

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: JamieK

                                        Went to the Mandarin for a funeral lunch reception this week. It was perfect. We had a room to ourselves for about 60 people. There was types of food to suit everyone's taste and plenty of it, including pizza. So to the OP, it's not always about the food or the value.

                                      2. Food is decent, haven't gotten sick from eating there, clean, fresh, service is good. Price point is a bit high, but I like to think I get my money's worth. It appeals to all ages and occasions. Seeing as I seldom get to eat the Canadian-style Chinese food, I like to eat the stereotypical staples like the wings, chicken balls with sweet/sour sauce, egg rolls, etc.

                                        Variety is definitely the spice of life, captainmoop, and Porchetta & Co definitely provide variety, but sometimes, nothing beats that first plate of the classics :)

                                        -----
                                        Porchetta & Co.
                                        825 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON , CA

                                        1. Even though the food at Madarin should all taste the same from location to location, we always find the Yonge and Eglinton location better than others. (Since the entire family moved further north, we have found Dragon Pearl as a closer alternative)

                                          Like everyone said, it is a good place for a large group/family gathering, it's mainly for selection and quantity over quality.

                                          There are some food at Madarin, imo, that is decent. Torpedo shrimp, spring roll, chicken wings, are fairly decent if I want "Canadian Chinese food". (I have had worse)

                                          1. The thing is, I think I approached this with a bias towards buffets because the only buffets I go to maybe once every couple of years are the Mandarin Oriental or Shangri La in Hong Kong. So, if anyone has ever been to these types of buffets (its like Las Vegas buffets I guess) you can see why I'm disappointed that a buffet like Mandarin has such a high status as a buffet in the eyes of Toronto.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: captainmoop

                                              May I ask what the buffet at the Mandarin Oriental or Shangri La costs? Why does it disappoint you that people like Mandarin? What place would you rather see people like? I think you will be dissapointed about more then just buffets if you are comparing your dining experiences with Hong Kong. I do not think everything there tastes "pretty bad", in fact I think there are some things that taste pretty good.

                                              1. re: captainmoop

                                                Buffets in Hong Kong Hotels are amongst some of the best ( quality and value ) in the world - Las Vegas included. As such, I tend to agree with sweetie that its is a bit unfair to compare the ' rough with an edge' buffet of Mandarin to say the 'mind boggling' choices and refined quality of, for example, the HK Intercontinental Hotel buffet. ( see photos of only1/2 the dessert section )

                                                 
                                                 
                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                  I ate at the Y&E location and it was alright. For lunch, I had the grilled steak, flank steak and roast turkey. The har gow and shui mai were edible. I also took some stir fried veggies and tofu. And finished off with fresh fruit, 'creme caramel' and some mango pudding.
                                                  If I had to pay for lunch in the area, I would choose Mandarin over Pickle Barrel, Spring Rolls and other chains. So for $11.99, lunch was ok once in a while. Would not see it as a treat. But better choices if I had to go for a team lunch.

                                                  1. re: caitlink

                                                    i'd rather walk the 1/2 block to Sandwich Box and enjoy my lunch without feeling like a pig at a trough.
                                                    but hey, that's just me :)

                                                    -----
                                                    Sandwich Box
                                                    238 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z7, CA

                                                  2. re: Charles Yu

                                                    Not only are HK hotel buffets more than a couple of miles away and in a world of a different scale, they are also a whole lot more money!

                                                    I do like Mandarin and there is definitely a spot for them on my list of "where to go for a change" options. I have to add that I have been to Woodbine, Finch, Queensway and Yonge/Eglinton (YE) on more than a few occassions over the years. By far no location is as good as The Queensway. You cannot judge Mandarin on the whole if you don't first eat at this location. While neither Finch nor Woodbine, have rated highly for me, YE used to be just about as fresh and tasty as Queensway. YE is now borderline disgusting. I get dragged there because of friends who live near to it and they love their fried food. But the meat on the grill at YE is always over-cooked and cooked in large batches so the meats are cold where as Queensway has dedicated cooks constantly serving freshly grilled meats. The chicken and sausage are decent and the steak can be great. YE uses slimy dark meat chicken in almost all of their dishes where Queensway is mostly white meat and it is never over-cooked, dry! The Jaa Doo Chicken is great! The fried rice is brown, soy saucey and greasy at YE where at Queensway it ranges from good to very good. While Queensway always has 2 fresh and lightly stir fried brocolli dishes with either tofu or veggie only, and then a dish of lightly sauted mushrooms, YE will have 1 or 2 such dishes and they are gross and gloppy with corn starch. The string beans are always fresh at Queensway where at YE they are soft, puckered and turning brown and just gross. YE has a slightly better sushi selection. The prime rib is about equal at both but only at Queensway have I lucked into some nicely rare and perfect slices never found at YE. The BBQ ribs at The Queensway are cooked with some crispy tips, added seasoning and while at times a bit greasy, they can be very satifying. Way better fresh fruits on display at Queensway for dessert and they often have fresh out of the oven butter tarts.

                                                    Not gourmet but there is a place for Mandarin...but only if its the Queensway! Avoid YE at all costs...it gives Mandarin a terrible name! Pick your choices wisely off the buffet and you can have a very satisfying meal!

                                                    1. re: justsayn

                                                      I have heard that the one in Brampton (location of their head office) is the best of all the Mandarins.

                                                      1. re: Teep

                                                        Could be. I was there once - shortly after it opened years ago and nothing stood out about it except the fish tanks. But since YE has gone so far downhill, perhaps Brampton really shines like The Queensway does!

                                                2. Been going to Mandarin on occasion for years - and it seems everytime I go, the menu has not changed. Still go back because it is good for groups and appeals to many, but would not go voluntarily just because the menu has become..how should I say it..too familiar.

                                                  1. I"ve been to several Mandarins in the west GTA (various Mississauga locations and Brampton outlets), Y & E, Queensway. The niche this place seems to fill nicely is a place for groups to have dinner together and satisfy different tastes because of the large variety. Friends of ours who have mixed Caucasian/Chinese in-laws see it as a good compromise for those in the family who don"t really loike Chinese food. Take into consideration the nice decor and pleasant staff and one can understand the popularity. Having said that, I've found the food to be uniformly mediocre. Dishes that look tasty and inviting turn out to have very little flavour or less than satisfying texture. Case in point are the Chinese BBQ ribs which have the requisite sheen and bright red colour, but are lacking in flavour and have a disappointingly pre-boiled texture. Some Mandarins are better than others (the grilled rib steak medallions were excellent at the Hurontario/Matheson location). Service is uniformly pleasant, but prices too dear IMHO for the quality received. Imperial Buffet and Dundas and Dixie in Mississauga is good and certainly better than the Lebovic Scarborough location. Dragon Pearl on three visits has proven to be dependable, with fresh ingredients and decent level of preparation/cooking. The roast standing rib of beef was actually rare to medium rare (very unusual at a buffet). Dragon Pearl has exquisite decor and a nice service flow. I much prefer it to Mandarin, but as with everything else on the Chowhound boards, differing personal tastes will always make for different experiences and opinions.

                                                    -----
                                                    Imperial Buffet
                                                    3120 Dixie Rd, Mississauga, ON L4Y2A6, CA

                                                    1. The super Mandarin in Brampton is gigantic, clean, and has a wonderful (and incredibly expensive) display of saltwater fish in built-into-the-wall aquariums that are very pretty

                                                      You can do alot worse, trust me. Go try Imperial Buffet or Starwalk and you'll be begging for the Mandarin

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                                                      Imperial Buffet
                                                      1881 Steeles Ave W, Toronto, ON M3H5Y4, CA

                                                      1. What a timely thread. I have just accepted a job in the same building as a Mandarin (leaving the cozy confines of the PATH and all its deliciousness). From this thread, should I avoid at all costs? Do they make a decent hot and sour soup? Dumplings? Besides the Dim Sum Shop, which I'm told is moving, is there any other decent chinois around? What about C'est Bon?

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: MeMeMe

                                                          Anybody who has not yet eaten at a Mandarin and then reads this thread should conclude that he/she should just try it once him/herself and make up his/her own mind whether to repeat the experience.

                                                          1. re: T Long

                                                            Agree w T Long. MeMeMe, you should try it out if you've never been before. Most posters in this thread seem to be saying pretty much the same thing- Mandarin serves a purpose, and it isn't that bad for what it is. None of the posters so far have said to avoid Mandarin at all costs. Even uberathlete, who described the food at Mandarin as terrible, visits Mandarin when they offer all you can eat crab.

                                                            If you don't want to pony up for the full lunch or dinner buffet, you could always order specific dishes such as their hot & sour soup or dumplings off the Mandarin take-out menu.

                                                            C'est Bon is decent for Westernized Chinese food. Fairly expensive considering what you get, and I've found the veggies in the various dishes could be cleaned a little more carefully, but better tasting food than Manchu Wok in my experience.

                                                            For decent and delicious but expensive Chinese food in midtown, Lai Toh Heen ($$$$) is on Mt Pleasant, south of Eglinton.

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                                                            C'est Bon
                                                            2685 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4N2H8, CA

                                                            Lai Toh Heen
                                                            692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                                                            1. re: prima

                                                              I love Lai Toh Heen but i don't believe they are open for lunch. Manchu Wok is offensive stuff so I'll avoid at all costs.

                                                              I know that Cha Liu is moving in July - I just hope they stay in the neighbourhood.

                                                              1. re: MeMeMe

                                                                Lai Toh Heen is open for lunch. LTH offers dim sum, a regular lunch menu, a prix fixe Chef's special, and a take-out menu at lunchtime. The online menus are available on their website.

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                                                                Lai Toh Heen
                                                                692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                                                                1. re: prima

                                                                  I am pretty sure the website says that they are open for lunch on Sat & Sun only.

                                                                  1. re: sweetie

                                                                    Oops, my bad. You're correct, sweetie, LTH currently only serves lunch on Sat & Sun, from 11 am - 4pm . Haven't been since last year, and didn't realize that they had stopped serving lunch Mon-Fri.

                                                                    http://laitohheen.com/location.asp

                                                              2. re: prima

                                                                Lai Toh Heen is dreadful.

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                                                                Lai Toh Heen
                                                                692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                                                                1. re: evansl

                                                                  ???? What did you order to make you say this?!

                                                          2. I thought it was o.k. Sushi not so good. Lots of desserts. Attentive service, o.k. decor....I guess the price, location and the fact that it is an all you can eat buffet makes it more than sustainable.

                                                            1. I like a good westernized chinese food experience and have even loved some chinese buffets in the past. I remeber quite fondly one in Scarborough Town Centre for a while called Mr. Lee's -- it had great black-bean mussels and S&P Shrimp.

                                                              However, my recent experiences with Mandarin have been dreadful. Expensive and only passably good food. My local Can-Chinese delivery is significantly better at the Can-Chinese staples than Mandarin and much cheaper.