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Jan 6, 2014 05:59 PM

Mandarin Malden

I tried out this new restaurant in Malden Center for lunch today. They opened a month or two ago, in the space that used to be Abiata Cafe (sniff, sniff - I really miss that place).

They don't seem to have an online menu or website; I will attempt to attach pics of the takeout menu. I'm not familiar with Taiwanese food so I did a quick Chowhound search to see what people liked at other restaurants....people liked a lot of things! We decided to just wing it and try out a couple of items.

The menu is extensive, lots of organ meats on there. (As an aside, I'd always wondered what one would do with the packages of frozen duck tongue that I'd see at Super 88. Now I know!).

My favorite thing was probably the Taiwanese meat ball, which semmed more like a dumpling: a thick dough made from glutinous rice powder, filled with a bit of diced pork, mushrooms, and a few veggies, served in a pool of thick sauce that was slightly sweet, slightly tomato-y and VERY faintly spicy. kind of like a steamed bao, if the bao was made with glutinous rice flour and boiled instead of steamed. I'm not making it sound good, am I? :-) But the thick, chewy dough was really good with the filling and sauce, albeit challenging to eat. We were sharing (didn't realize it was one per order) otherwise I would have held the bowl to my lips and shoved it towards my mouth with my chopsticks. When we ordered it we were told it would take about 20 min to prepare, which was fine with us, we had plenty to eat while we waited.

We also really liked the minced pork over dry noodles, which felt like a bargain at $5.75. Noodles were really nice and chewy, lots of minced pork and tofu in the topping.

I enjoyed the eggplant with basil leaves, which was not at all spicy despite the chili pepper next to it on the menu. Next time I'll make sure to say we want spicy. It had a little too much oil for me, but a nice flavor with a little sugar/caramel and a hint of five spice (I think).

Sanbei (3 cups) chicken was good too but it was my first time trying it so i don't know how it would compare to other versions around. I liked the flavor but am not a big fan of gnawing on bones so it's probably not the dish for me (the chicken was cut into bite-sized pieces so you could pop them in your mouth, chew away, then discard the bony bits).

The staff and owner were super nice. It was fairly busy in there, about half full at lunchtime, mostly Asian customers.

What should I try on my next visit? And if anyone else goes, how does it compare to other places? Is this good Taiwanese food?

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  1. Ugh, those pictures look terrible. Sorry! I'll try to figure out a way to make them look better.

    1. I can't believe I missed this post back in January! Here is my Yelp Review of the restaurant.

      I have a new favorite Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. Authentic Taiwanese cuisine is hard to come by out here in the 'burbs, but Mandarin Malden delivers the goods in droves.

      Located on the recently refreshed Pleasant Street in Malden Center, the space is attractively appointed with rich red walls, comfortable seating, white tablecloths and modern table settings that put it on par with perennial Malden favorites, All Seasons Table and Exchange Street Bistro.... but at half the cost.

      We started with the won ton soup for two ($4.50). A rich, but crystal clear chicken broth filled with 6 dumplings and bok choy.

      Next up... Spicy Garlic Eggplant. Not overly sweet, could have used a little more heat, but the flavor was great and the eggplant was perfectly cooked. ($8.25)

      Our other entree was the Salted Crispy Fried Chicken. One of the best versions of this dish I've had in a while. Perfectly crisp boneless chicken thighs with a delicious salt and spice mixture tossed with fried basil leaves. ($10.50)

      We also ordered the side of rice with ground pork, pickled cabbage relish, daikon and soy soaked hard-boiled egg. ($3.75)

      All in all a great meal. Service was helpful and friendly. I can't wait to go back and try many more items on the menu!

      2 Replies
      1. re: UnclePH

        Next time go for the lunch special. You can order just one or two dishes, but go for the three-dishes version: lunch for two plus leftovers for under 25 bucks. They also give you a quart of soup.

        You can order any of the soups on their menu as part of the lunch special, but they may push the wonton or hot & sour soup on you... I called in a delivery order and asked for the pork and mustard soup and they told me "that's for Chinese people, you want wonton or hot & sour." Lol! I insisted and they gave me the soup I wanted to try - mustard greens with slices of pork liver, lots of thinly sliced ginger in a rich broth. It was delicious.

        IIRC we also tried the salt & pepper pork chop and eggplant with brown bean sauce at that lunch & really enjoyed both. i liked the beans sauce eggplant even better than the version with basil.

        1. re: gimlis1mum

          That's awesome! They are very close to my office. Truly, I'm looking forward to exploring the menu. I was deliberating between the pork chop and the crispy chicken. Gives me another good reason to go back!

      2. Gotta say, I am utterly perplexed by the lack of enthusiasm by my fellow Hounds about Mandarin Malden. This place is a real find! No, it's not perfect, but there are some real show stoppers on the menu that would make any foodie sit up and take notice.

        *Great Bao buns! Just the right amount of sweet to savory and topped with chopped peanuts.
        *Beef with Long Peppers is appropriately spicy and savory.
        *Salted Crispy Fried chicken comes in appetizer and dinner sized portions.
        *Kung Pao Shrimp is long on vegetables and short on shrimp and the heat level could come up a bit, but the shrimp are perfectly cooked and the sauce is really flavorful and not gloppy like you get so many other places.

        We have been in several times now and the clientele is majority Asian. Lots to explore on the menu including some very enticing noodle dishes.

        7 Replies
          1. re: Allstonian

            That is the braised pork over rice with daikon, mustard greens and boiled egg. $3.75! It's a must.

            1. re: UnclePH

              Yum, that looks great! Gotta try it on my next visit.

              On another note - we're getting a Korean restaurant in the former Massimo's space, supposed to open in July...hoping it's good!

              1. re: gimlis1mum

                Oh, that's amazingly good news! I hope it's good too!

              2. re: UnclePH

                This Braised Pork over Rice dish is the famous Taiwanese snack called Lu Rou Fan - 滷肉飯 - lǔ ròu fàn.

                1. re: scoopG

                  It may very well be my favorite dish on the menu! So simple but so good.

            2. re: UnclePH

              This place has been on my radar for a few months. The ups and downs of the Taiwanese places in town and even the burbs makes this temporarily a destination for Taiwanese food in my book, even if I have not tried it. I've walked by it and got a good feeling.

              In other words, I'm very likely to try it. Some new blood is needed in Taiwanese food around here.

            3. I've had takeout from here a few times recently; just trying random things off the menu and found some new favorites.

              Mustard greens with bean curd sheets & edamame: finely chopped greens, shelled edamame and tofu (skin?) that's been sliced into ribbons like noodles. The sauce is very light and non-oily. I'd never had anything like this in a restaurant. You almost don't need any rice, with the tofu "noodles" in it you could eat this as is.

              Chinese squash with mushrooms, or with dried baby shrimp: chunks of (I think) fuzzy squash with enoki mushrooms(the sorter, fatter kind, rather than the long skinny ones). I preferred the mushroom version because I thought the shrooms worked better with the delicate flavor of the squash. Also made with a light-tasting sauce.

              Stir-fried flat noodles (menu options are chicken/shrimp/beef/pork, but we ordered it vegetarian): the wide rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce. Cooked just right, not all stuck together (like when I try to cook them at home). I've also tried the stir-fried rice cakes but they were a little underdone for my taste, so I'll stick with the flat noodles.

              I still need to try that pork with mustard greens!