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Oct 13, 2012 06:01 PM

Sichuan Specialties at Mandarin Gourmet [Palo Alto]

Regarding Palo Alto Sichuan, it seems that Mandarin Gourmet now has a page full of sichuan specialties. I've always like the place, but was bored by the Chinese-American-"mandarin" slant. There were a few good non-standard items on the menu, but now they've upped to a whole section.

This might be the good chinese eats in Palo Alto... I look forward to a report.

This is
Mandrin Gourmet
420 Ramona St
Palo Alto, CA 94301

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  1. If you really wanted someone to take the bait and report back, a new thread with an appropriate subject heading might be more productive.

    Here's a link to the Sichuan menu at Mandarin Gourmet.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      What is the spice level like? Also, do you recommend a reservation?

      1. re: culinary_guru

        I would suspect the spice level is moderate, but this is a new menu (and maybe a new chef). Their main menu is mostly americanized "mandarin" with a few nice dishes.

        Reservations will not be required, I promise you that

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        I've always figured Mandarin Gourmet to be the "safe" choice for those who preferred pretty plates and smooth service over adventure. Not that I would turn down an order of their Chang-sha Chicken or nicely tender-crisp Dry Sauteed String Beans.

        It took me a while to figure out that the Szechuan items are listed in the "经典川菜" category -- the bright red text was a hint. Their 川味潑辣魚 "Fish Fillet Buried in Chili Pepper Soup" uses the same characters as the "West Style Spicy Fish Fillet" at Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito. That arrived in a tureen smothered by a layer of floating chillies that took the waitress several passes with a ladle to remove. Needless to say, it's not for your average "ladies who lunch"!

        I wish them well with the new menu and look forward to reports. (Okay, and I would join a group of testers.)

        1. re: Jefferson

          I like that translation. I've never really figured out what West Style, and the difference between West Lake, but "buried in chili pepper" leaves little to the imagination. Looks like it's time to make a visit.

      3. Their food was really bad Americanized Chinese stuff back in the 90s, but the place looked darn fancy. I haven't been back since then.

        1 Reply
        1. re: vincentlo

          My last two visits (2010, 2011) showed a light hand on the american favorites, and the few non-american dishes decently but not stunningly executed. The large plastic banner above the restaurant in chinese - and the chinese language out front - I'm hoping they'll start playing for the real chinese market. The problem is price - Jing Jing has lower prices, and MG has more of a classy atmosphere.

          I hope they can bring up the level of chinese on University Ave. With the 4 (or more?) places down there, it would be nice if _one_ was a place that had enough price-performance - or enough performance at any price. Perhaps a whistful request - university ave is not known for price/performance. Windy's was pretty good, and that closed when the owners retired.

        2. I wandered by tonight after having dinner elsewhere. Besides the printed menu of Sichuan specialties, I was told there are daily specials such as Sichuan-style dongpo rou.

          The Sichuan chef is from Chengdu. I was told that he used to work for San Francisco's Z & Y Restaurant.

          Any updates?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Looks interesting - hope to try it soon.


          2. Here's a link to the report of our recent chowdown here,

            I'll be very interested to read follow-up reports, and especially whether it is necessary to be so insistent on getting the real thing and traditional spice levels.

            1. After two strike outs in my attempt to get dinner last night, I decided to walk over to Mandarin Gourmet.

              Ordered 川味雞絲涼麵 Cold Noodle with Shredded Chicken, $7.95. Good size portion of cold wheat noodles mixed with bean sprouts, julienne of chicken breast and cucumbers in a spicy red oil/nutty sauce. The saucing was moderately spicy hot and had notable numbing and citrusy aroma from Sichuan peppercorns. However, the dish was drowning in sauce. Too much of a good thing!

              I mentioned this to the server when he came by to check on me. Since he didn't offer to take the dish back, I had to figure out a way to make it palatable myself. The answer was to rinse off about half the noodle mix by dunking in my cold water glass. Giving them a good shake to remove as much water as possible (and making quite a mess of the white table cloth) then mixing back in turned out to be the idea blend of flavor intensity for me.

              When the busser walked by and saw what I was doing, I was offered another glass of ice water.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                When the server checked on you, and he didn't offer to take the dish back, well what exactly did he offer you, Melanie? Just a verbal apology?

                1. re: vincentlo

                  Nothing. He asked if I'd had the dish there before. I answered "no", and he said, "so you're comparing it to the way other restaurants make it?" Then he said that the head chef prepared it himself. Not sure why that's relevant. And that was it. No apology, no asking me if I wanted anything else instead.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    From the pictures, and your description, I have trouble seeing what was unpalatable. The sauce was tasty, it covered the noodles but didn't form a gloopy mess.

                    Your description said "to make it palatable..." ... I give you the benefit of the doubt automatically, but I also have a fondness for restaurants (I've especially mentioned chinese restaurants) making dishes as they see fit (and that looks like a reasonable dish) and sticking by it.

                    I guess I'm confused. Did you expect them to eat the cost of this dish, or you just wanted to order something different?