Where you’ll eat Mandarin

March 5, 2017

The newest eatery in town offers a mix of Chinese classics, Thai favourites and Korean greats

Where you’ll eat Mandarin

Asian Continental classics with a modern spin on them, is what awaits anyone visiting Mandarin Kitchen, the freshly opened restaurant in Z-Block, DHA.

But, wait, you are going to be pleasantly surprised by the energy of the ambience of the place -- it is warm and intimate, an effect achieved by a smart use of bright fabrics and leather upholstery, a fireplace, polished wooden furniture, and a number of abstract paintings that hang from a uniquely designed, horizontal pole with hinges.

For its young, American-returned owner Akber Ali Khan, an architect by profession, it’s about form justifying the content: "The ambience is just as important as the cuisine.

"The place was conceived to offer a mix of Asian signature treats from all-time Chinese greats, Thai favourites and Korean dishes," said Khan who has set up the restaurant with his partner.

When I entered the place, its interior had another surprising feature in store: A book corner. It’s a quiet and comfy little corner, with large windows that let loads of natural light in, where you can commit yourself to reading -- there are a good few books on the shelf to choose from.

For me personally, the best part about the two-storey eating outlet was its live kitchen, with a transparent glass window that offered a generous look at the food being prepared.

After making myself comfortable, I went on to order from a long list of appetisers served under a section called ‘Small Plate.’ The menu had a wide range to offer, such as satay chicken, prawn tempura, fried calamari, spring rolls, sriracha wings, and kimchi fries. I settled for the dumpling basket and pizza wontons.

With a choice of dipping sauce, the chicken dumplings proved to be a tasty concoction, melting in your mouth even before you knew it.

My second appetizer was thin and crispy wontons, with pizza sauce and pepperoni -- a perennial favourite. This one had a cheesy flavour, to my utter delight. Flawless from the execution point of view, the appetisers were quite a riot.

Next, I ordered Mandarin soup which is a house special and is made of chicken, shrimps and mushrooms in abundance, cooked in soya sauce with an after-taste of seasonings. This one wasn’t overwhelmingly strong but lived up to its claim to being the best soup packed with flavour.

Despite the recent incidents of terror attacks in the city, one of which had happened very recently in Mandarin Kitchen’s vicinity, the place was buzzing with crowds of (mostly) young people

Service was certainly a strong point of the place -- right from the very polite hostess who ushered me in, to the friendly staff and even the chef who came to say hello while I waited for the food.

There were little candles on each table, their flickering light adding to the mood of the place.

Mandarin Kitchen’s menu also features daily breakfast items which are available between 8am to 11am. Besides, their dim sum hi-tea is also gaining popularity.

Yet another idea that is fast catching on is MK’s inclusion of signature Asian items’ single serving with rice which I vowed to myself I’d try the next time I visit the place.

Korean fried chicken is also offered, in crispy, sticky, sweet and spicy optionals, in small, medium and large servings, together with fries. The package includes wings, drumsticks and chicken strips.

The main menu, on the other hand, also comprises a range of rice and noodles as well as Chinese specialties, albeit there is a greater focus on aroma, freshness and handpicked ingredients.

My main meal arrived shortly afterwards. Apart from the large selection of main chicken dishes, my pick -- hot, braised chicken cooked in hot and spicy sauce -- was not disappointing at all. In fact, it was succulent and juicy, topped with sautéed vegetables and a dollop of contrasting sauces.

I skipped the fish gravies and had schezuan prawns that had a similar setting with that of chicken entree but with prawns instead.

All said and done, the star item remained a beef specialty, also recommended by Akber Khan. The element that gave this dish an extra edge was the crispy battered beef covered in sticky, sweet sauce. Crispy fried beef ticked all the right boxes for me, and was a clear winner -- above even chowmein which is a staple mix of chicken and cabbage. It isn’t exactly low-priced but it’s worth your money.

Despite the recent incidents of terror attacks in the city, one of which had happened very recently in Mandarin Kitchen’s vicinity, the place was buzzing with crowds of (mostly) young people, overlooked by two guards who stood alert right outside the entrance.

Where you’ll eat Mandarin