Tuesday, November 02, 2004
dinner from mandarette.
thd, my cousin, came over last night and brought these gorgeous orchids for me mum and dinner from my favourite westside chinese restaurant, mandarette. if you don't live in los angeles, i might have to explain the concept of "the westside". it is pretty much any part west of la cienega blvd to the pacific ocean, but it's more of a cultural division than a physical one, although i can't quite explain what that division is. or, rather, i can, but i'd be opening up a can of worms i'm not willing to chase just yet. anyway, just take my word for it when i say it can be difficult finding really good chinese food on the westside.
when mandarette first opened in the eighties, it was a pomo minimalist space, that lately has been transformed into a more traditional looking space (but still utterly stylized). its owner, philip chiang, was a graphic artist before he opened the first caff on beverly blvd (there's now a beverly hills sibling), and is now overseeing the menu for the pf chang's chain (oh, oh, no comment). the most authentic chinese food in the los angeles area is found east of la proper, in the san gabriel valley; chiang brought the quality of flavour from there, and transfused it into types of dishes that would appeal to the westside crowd--lighter, cleaner, with a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables.
we started with chilled silken tofu with pickled vegetable and thousand year old egg (pictured above), and lionhead soup, a clear broth with pork meatballs, napa cabbage, and glass noodles. the meatballs were large, tender and very rich. it tasted as though the binder used was crushed fried pork rinds--it was that rich--but i doubt anyone would ever own up to that if it is true.
we also had chicken and asparagus sautéed in black bean sauce (asparagus was crisp, chicken flavourful but not salty) and steamed fish fillet (bass, i think), with scallions, cilantro, and something called shanghai sauce, which i think is just the steaming liquid along with the fish broth. light in texture and flavour, but just what was called for after our rather heavy lunch.
8386 beverly blvd
los angeles 90048