Mandarin House dishes out Chinese favorites popular with locals of La Jolla
By Kelley Carlson
According to at least one source, Mandarin House isn’t just one of the best Chinese restaurants in La Jolla— it’s among the top 100 in the United States. Chinesemenu.com, a service of Chinese Restaurant News, identifies it as among the premier establishments of its type (out of more than 46,000 nationwide) meeting ideal criteria for location, price and cuisine. And local residents seem to agree, as Mandarin House is a frequent recipient of reader’s choice awards from area publications.
The original location is on La Jolla Boulevard, a short distance from WindanSea Beach and just south of the Village. A second site is in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood. Two white lion statues greet customers outside the entrance to the La Jolla restaurant. Once inside, guests will find an elegant, yet simple setting. The small lobby is softly lit by a chandelier; an aquarium rests on a ledge just to the right. Patrons can watch news or sports programming while seated at a table or the four-seat bar.
The neutral-toned main dining and banquet rooms are spacious, with minimal decor, as the true focus here is on the cuisine. Casual booths line the windows, which are set with teacups and Chinese zodiac placemats. More formal, white-clothed tables are located down the center of the room and along the mirrored wall; the cushioned seats feature swirling oriental patterns. Light contemporary music plays quietly in the background.
Much of the food is colorful, pairing crispy and smooth textures and sweet and sour tastes — typical of Mandarin-style cooking. Other dishes incorporate the Szechuan method, with bold flavors of garlic and chili peppers and the use of ingredients such as peanuts and ginger. Hunan is yet another style that can be found, in the hot and spicy, deep-hued dishes.
Guests can begin their meal with appetizers like Smoked Chicken-Mandarin Seaweed, Roast Pork Slices, Egg Rolls and Crab Rangoon. Or there are soups ranging from Hot and Sour, Won Ton and Egg Drop to Chicken Gold Corn.
There are a number of entree options, in categories of poultry, duck, beef, pork, seafood, vegetables, and noodles and rice. Highlights include Crispy Beef, composed of shredded prime beef quick-fried with carrots and celery, then cooked in a hot, spicy sauce; Double Happiness, a combination of jumbo shrimp and scallops in a special sauce; and Peking Duck served with thin pancakes.
Owner John Law especially touts the Kung-Po Chicken, consisting of diced poultry and scallions cooked in a spicy, red-chili pepper sauce and garnished with peanuts. “Nobody makes the sauce like us,” he said.
There are also chef’s specials such as Ginger Shrimp, which is battered shrimp quick-fried with shredded ginger root in a sweet-and-milky, spicy hot sauce; and the zesty Orange Beef.
Takeout is available along with delivery (for a $1 charge) within five miles of the restaurant, 5-9 p.m. daily, with a minimum $15 order.
Address: 6765 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla
Phone: (858) 454-2555
The Vibe: Casual, relaxed
Signature Dishes: Kung-Po Chicken, Crispy Beef, Double Happiness
Open Since: 1977
Patio Seating: No
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: No
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Mandarin House’s Volcano Cocktail
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