Have your parents ever told you to live life without expectations? Because if you create them, and they are met, you will only be content since it was expected. But God forbid that they are not met, you will find yourself devastated, miserable, or disappointed at the very least. This piece of advice is something that I truly do attempt to practice each day; however, there are times when it cannot be avoided. Hence today, the primary issue of this post…
I will preface the following restaurant review by saying that my family and I have been loyal patrons for the past 12 years to a restaurant called Mandarin Noodle House in LA. Since my siblings and I were youngsters, going to Mandarin Noodle House meant the best beef stew noodle soup which was basically big chunks of meaty beef in an incredibly rich beef broth, and the most al dente, perfect lengthed (I don’t think that’s a word) noodles ever!! They also had these great things called green onion pancakes which, btw, if you’ve never tried you HAVE to go try it!!! The pancakes are just crispy and flaky enough to give you a satisfying crunch, but have enough of a chewy soft dough texture to make it substantial. Just all around incredible! And the cucumbers..ah…the famous pickled cucumbers. You know when I was a kid, I always thought that pickles smelled and tasted like feet? Yea, I guess I must have tasted my own feet when I was little because that was the primary simile I used to describe any food that I didn’t like. But these were the only pickled items that I would actually eat. They’re just that good; the right ratio of sugar, vinegar, and garlic. And a meal at Mandarin Noodle House was never complete without the loud voice of its owner, Kelly, I believe. I want to cut her some slack and not accuse her of being short-tempered or always in a seeming rush, so I tell myself that Asians just talk loud (true fact. exhibit A: my relatives). But Kelly’s sharp voice would be heard from the moment she greeted you to the parting “Bye Bye!!!” So how do you discern when an asian woman is mad and not mad? You just don’t. My family and I followed her from the beginning at her Monterey Park, CA location to this one I am about to talk about on Las Tunas in Temple City, CA. It has been a while since my family has been here, so due to our absence for a good amount of the past year, we were unaware that within that time frame there had been a change in ownership. Can you sort of guess where my little schpeal about disappointment coming from unmet expectations is heading??
My brother and I woke up today starving (as usual) and he asked if I wanted to go out to lunch with him. We excitedly chose Mandarin Noodle Deli in Temple City, CA since we haven’t had it in SOO long…and some nice beef stewed noodle soup and green onion pancake sounded amazing!!! We walked towards the restaurant and my brother immediately noticed a new added LED light sign with mandarin characters and said “hmm, this is new”. We shrugged it off and said “must new improvements.” Once inside, we were semi-greeted by what I assumed to be a nod from a woman–the loud asian owner was nowhere to be seen. We get our menus, and again, one of us commented “oh, they made new menus!” (not that jade green and black ones that was so distinctive of Mandarin Noodle House). We already knew what we wanted so it was:
1 beef stewed noodle soup
1 meat pan fried dumpings
1 green onion pancake
2 pickled cucumber (okay, ODD, the name for it on the menu was like cold sauce cucumber or something?? but i figured what the heck, I LOVEE mandarin noodle houses’s pickled cucumbers so imma get me 2!!!)
The cucumbers came out first. Looked slightly different, but not too much. I reached, rather beast-like, for one and OHH MMYY GOOODDDDNESSS……! My brother and I each took a bite at the same time and uhgsfdsh GROSS!! We both said “this aint right!!! what the heck is this??!!” It was room temp and borderline lukewarm, for one thing. Second of all, absolutely no vinegar or sugar (kind of required ingredients for pickled). It was pure just like water+sesame oil or something but it was just inedible!!! Now I truly am not one to ever fuss about things, especially when it comes to food and especially at restaurants. I would rather just be super polite/calm because I hate hurting other people’s feelings or inconveniencing them to cater to my needs. But I think there was something about me not getting the quality of nostalgic food that I was “expecting,” and that brought out a bolder side of me :/. I was kinda mad at myself because I ordered two, so when the waitress came back to bring our order of beef noodles, I told her (still politely, though!) that the cucumbers were NOT good. I asked that since we only ate a couple off of one of the plates, could she please not charge us for them and take them away. She refused to refund us for both plates, only one of them since we already ate some!! Oh! But wait wait wait, gahahahaha right before she refused my request, she made a face at me that I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, or if I should angry at. She scrunched pretty much all 43 muscles in her face and twisted them in incredulousness, as if she believed that the plate of cucumbers she served me was a Maine lobster tail! Now, I am definitely a proponent of being proud of the food you serve, but when the food you are serving comes out like this….=/??? So then she asked which plate we took a bite from, and she reached for the other, saying she would take this one back and not charge us for it. I read another Yelp customer’s review that the waitress had swapped around dumplings between two tables after getting the order wrong by using one of the patron’s used chopsticks back and forth like pokemon cards, there is no doubt in my mind that the plate of disgustingly room temp cucumbers from my table came from another person’s unwanted leftovers, or that it would soon land on another poor patron’s table. Best of luck to whoever got our seconds!!
The beef noodle soup was alright; definitely not as good as the previous owner’s rich broth. But I’ll admit that the hand pulled noodles were nice and chewy, and not too thick.=) yayyy for yummy noodles! (but I’ll be showing you really good noodles with the low carb tofu noodle recipe coming soon!!)
Of all the food items, I think it was the onion pancakes that my brother and I set our highest expectations on. The pancakes that we envisioned were flaky, crispy, yet semi-doughy. What came out was quite the opposite: soft, flimsy, and thin. I’m actually someone that likes the type that are softer and not super crispy (same goes with fries–I know I’m weird, huh?), but these pancakes were just wayyy too perfectly round and smooth to be homemade/handmade. Maybe storebought? There was no love or soul in it! The previous owner’s scratchmade onion pancakes were more or less oblong, flaky, and rustic looking–just like homemade pizzas! Handcrafted=uneven sides and bubble/imperfect surfaces, and storebought/frozen=perfectly round, smooth surfaced, and no imperfections.
The panfried meat dumplings were small compared to previous owner’s, but the brother said they were still okay. But alas, no expectations right? Today was just another day where remembering words of wisdom was key. 🙂 This restaurant wouldn’t still be standing if it wasn’t good, so for me to knock it down for one bad day isn’t fair. After all, who the heck am I to say that the items I ordered weren’t good? Everyone has different tastebuds, and different preferences. So next time I’ll just go somewhere else. It’s as simple as that. Power to you, Mandarin Noodle Deli! Keep making those noodles!
Tonight I am having dinner with a truly amazing friend, Daphne, whom I met at my marketing internship at Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (yes, the company that owns Panda Express and Panda Inn) last summer! We are going to Thai Classic in Arcadia. So excited!