Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mandarin Noodle Deli (CLOSED)- Temple City: More Dishes and Photos

Exterior Mandarin Noodle Deli

*PLEASE NOTE: Mandarin Noodle Deli is changing ownership on April 4th, 2010. This information will then be old and the old food may or may not be changing significantly. The current owner plans on taking a break from restaurants now. Please visit in their final days of opening and try out their food!

The new restaurant is New Mandarin Noodle Deli. Nowhere as good their previous owner (this post).

There is a thing about writing about restaurants again, and then again. Why even do so? Well, things change in life. What was once recent news (Green Island, for example, with a "new menu") is now old, outdated, worthless (Green Island, after a few months of writing the post, had another "new menu")! Kind of like writing in depth reviews of digital cameras. They get outdated in the course of one year, two in the case of D-SLR's. Too fast, I say. Another post on Green Island? No. Yes. No. Yes. No.

Mandarin Noodle Deli however, has not changed. The owner is still the same, extremely protective of her business by only letting herself take all the orders and get change for customers. There is still a big (and growing) clientele that is not Asian, which is unusual for the stereotypical SGV Chinese restaurant. But, it gets a post. Why? I try a new item available. PICTURE TIME! And meanwhile, I take duplicates of the items I have tried. They pile on. Now, with the Nikon D90, how about taking even more duplicates or trying to make something look even better? Today you get to see that big giant pile of photos. The works and labors of 4 visits so far, within about six months. (Next week, a new restaurant. You won't be bored)

Cucumber and Seaweed Appetizer 1
(Sony W90, sunny day at the window)

Cucumber and Seaweed Appetizer 2
(Nikon D90, vivid setting, nighttime shot)

The thing about taking multiple shots is looking at how the things around you can change. See, the cucumbers totally look different in the bottom shot. The table was NEW in stead of the old tables. The lighting was different. But, the cucumber and seaweed appetizer (we asked half and half of each) was equally delicious in both visits! Cucumbers were cut into thick pieces and marinated in a vinegar and sugar mixture which was so good, I could drink a cup of it or dip their green onion pancakes in. Refreshing with a nice crunch, these were perfect during the summer day I shot the first photo in and the chilly evening I shot the second photo in.

The seaweed was seaweed, with shredded cucumber, marinated also in a vinegar mixture, but with even less seasoning compared to the cucumbers. With the cucumber marinade juices this tasted better. By itself, it was good, but the extra kick of flavor was beneficial for its success for me.

San Tung Chicken Salad

The San Tung Chicken Salad, which I also shot a year ago, was equally scrumptious, but only this time a blurry photo came out due to unsteady hands with a weak light source. With crunchy pieces of cucumbers (not marinated, just smashed into pieces), smoky pieces of juicy shredded chicken, and a minced garlic and soy sauce mixture, it made for a delicious appetizer. Of course, it was also a good choice for an entree as well, if you decided to manipulate it that way. The sauce was and still is another of my favorite "dipping sauces" for Mandarin Noodle Deli's green onion pancakes, with its piquant punch and bold flavor.

Green Onion Pancake 1
(Sony W90, little light during sunset)

Green Onion Pancakes 1
(Sony W90, sunny day. Much more appetizing! Sharp! Pretty colors!)

Green Onion Pancakes 3
(Nikon D90, dark rainy day. Adjusted curves in Photoshop)

Green Onion Pancakes 4
(Nikon D90, closeup nighttime with bright shots, Vivid)

The Green Onion Pancakes are still fantastic. Did I tell you that a friend who was visiting from China said that these pancakes tasted like what he ate during his childhood? The multiple layers, with a pleasant chew (thick noodles that are too thick= bad chew), were fun to munch on, while the crispy exterior brought more flavor and a light contrast in texture in the edges. Green onions brought what would have been a bland pancake into life, with their burst of flavor. If I was the chef, I would still add about 1.2 times more green onion, but this was plenty. Mandarin Noodle Deli has already added more green onion to their green onion pancakes compared to about three years ago, so I am a happy camper. This place is still my favorite choice for green onion pancakes. Earthen's version is also quite excellent, but is no comparison to this as their preparations are quite different from each other.

Beef Noodle Soup 1
(Sony W90, sunny bright day.)

Beef Noodle Soup 2
(Sony W90, sunset. Boring shot, but shows how big the bowl is! (Spoon is a big ladle spoon to pour soup)

Beef Noodle Soup 3
(Nikon D90, vivid, nighttime. Better, with the noodles not hidden away in soup)

Mandarin Noodle Deli's beef noodle soup has still remained the same after improving from three years ago. It is still a bit watered down in comparison to back in the day in Monterey Park, but still quite beefy with a nice spice which warms you just enough- definitely nowhere to sweating, if you like your beef noodle soup that way. There are plenty of tender chunks of beef that shred as you please, and the noodles are nicely tender with a nice pull. You can try their thick noodles if you want, but for me they are too thick and chewy. However, I could have asked them to cook the noodles longer and they might have been better- sometimes they cook the noodles for different amounts of time. Anyway, it is all about personal preferences. I never grew up eating thick noodles other then broad rice noodles or he fen/hoh fun, so of course, I am not used to it. Usually restaurants recommend the thick noodles, but since the owner knows we like the thin, she does not ask us what we would like to try.

And also, yes, you can get the beef noodle soup without green onions and cilantro. For me, they add a nice brightness to what is a very beefy and noodle intensive dish, but people also have the preference of not having green onions and cilantro. On the visit where I took the picture with the D90, there was a person who was screaming to the owner (as she was not cared for in 20 minutes as the owner was busy doing telephone orders, paying back customers, and taking other earlier customer orders (too much, you see!), "No green onion or cilantro! There must be none of it!" for about three times. It came to the table without, of course.

Da Lu Mian
(Nikon D90, rainy day)

Of course, we decided to branch out from the beef noodle soup and try some other noodle soups. To answer Wandering Chopstick's thought about the same soup base, well, there are certainly some other different soup bases on hand. One is featured in Mandarin Noodle Deli's "Da Lu Mian", which the owner recommended to us after asking about it. In this case, the noodle soup base was a light meat broth which was then made lightly thick with a cornstarch slurry. With the soup, there were plenty of vegetables, including blanched spinach, bamboo shoots, carrots, and mushrooms, as well as plenty of egg flowers. There were also thin slices of pork, and the standard noodles. I assume you could probably get the thick noodle as well. This was comforting and a nice change from the usual heavy flavors of the beef noodle soup. I would recommend this noodle soup if you are looking for a lighter bowl of hearty soup.

Rice Cake Soup
(Nikon D90, Vivid, Nighttime)

On another visit, we found out that the rice cake soup was also similar, but instead of noodles, it had cylinder tubes of rice cake. Simple meat broth with plenty of veggies. However, the rice cakes were unusual. They were not consistent; some had been cooking for a long time and thus were very tender and soft with barely any chew. However, most of them were ultra chewy still, to the point my teeth were almost hurting after finishing the meal, and could not soak up the flavors of the soup. This was interesting, but to suffer the chewing, I would rather order the stir fried rice cakes instead, which have thin oval shaped rice cakes instead. A bit more oil involved, but much more satisfying to eat. How long the rice cakes have been soaked/cooked for the day pretty much tells you how much you will be happy with the dish!

Stir Fried Rice Noodles 1
(Sony W90, sunny day)

Stir Fried Rice Noodle 2
(Nikon D90, rainy day (edited brightness/contrast/curves). Shaky hands= blurry noodles)
Stir Fried Rice Noodle 3
(Nikon D90, vivid, nighttime. Shaky hands=fuzzy photo)

So far these days, we have been ordering the stir fried rice noodles quite often. Why? Because they are a simple but tasty rice noodle dish. Plenty of pork strips (not doctored with cornstarch or baking soda to make it soft and tender), onions, bean sprouts, cabbage, and carrot in the dish, which are then seasoned with a slightly sweet soy sauce and broth mixture which I quite like. This mix of ingredients is also found in their stir fried rice cakes, FYI. As for the noodles, they were standard, being bouncy and light to eat. Not mushy, not hard- just right.

(I like last year's photo much more! (Sony W90)

As for their potstickers, they have not been ordered that often, but still offer a resilient and chewy skin with a flavorful seared bottom from cooking in the wok. Inside, the same fresh pork mixture, with little alterations but long marinading time, is still tasty but barely salty or savory to me. Guess it is just wine they use when they marinade the mixture? Not sure. I like mine with plenty of vinegar, and sometimes, a tad of soy sauce. Even better, the beef broth from the beef noodle soup. Yum.

Stir Fried A Choy
(Nikon D90, rainy day)

Of course, sometimes we just order vegetables as well. Just like this plate of A Choy, which was not altered or doctored up with lots of MSG. Instead, it was a simple stir fry of crisp A Choy, garlic/garlic powder, and salt. Easy! And definitely tasty. A Choy is kind of like cooked romaine lettuce but with more veggie flavor to me.

Stir Fried Cauliflower
(Nikon D90, Vivid, Nighttime)

On another day, we saw a nearby table order cauliflower, and thus we did too. But let me share you another a customer story of what they think all Chinese restaurants have. The person who was ordering this dish (non-Asian, but with an Asian wife and her family) was angry that he could not get his fortune cookies. He complained, "Why can't all these Chinese restaurants have fortune cookies?" His wife did not really help out or say anything of the authenticity of fortune cookies though. Smartly enough, Mandarin Noodle Deli had fortune cookies (I never knew that!), but he was angry until he could get his taste of fortune cookies for a day in a Chinese restaurant. We received no fortune cookies though after our dinner during the same night!

As for the cauliflower, the person who was angry about the fortune cookies ate this with plenty of (or to me, a TON as I rarely add lots of salt, oil, or sauces after the cooking as been done (exception: vinegar) of soy sauce. I ate them simply as is, as they were scented with a light garlic flavor which was very pleasing. The cauliflower were cooked to fork tender and were a great palate cleanser. Also, just good enough to eat by themselves. Vegetables are good! Per a waiter at another restaurant, "Vegetables are worth more than meat." I agree! (Hmm...maybe that explains the two vegetarian restaurant posts! :) )

So, as you can see, I am still quite happy with Mandarin Noodle Deli as a noodle place. But I am also quite accustomed to eating there. New noodle places just don't seem up to snuff! 101 Noodle Express and Liang Noodle House in Arcadia both did not satisfy me or my dining companions. And as you will see next week, nor did the new A&J. Yes, the owner is quite busy during full visits (e.g. Friday, Saturday nights), as only she can take the orders. But, the food is still our running favorite in noodle houses/dumpling restaurants. Delicious appetizers, good noodle soups, and tasty sides. What more could you want?

Mandarin Noodle Deli
9537 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City, CA 91780
Tel: 626-309-4318
*Cash only, closed on Mondays*

Mandarin Noodle Deli on Urbanspoon

Mandarin Noodle Deli in Los Angeles


Ben and Suanne said...

I enjoyed the shots comparison. I had never figured out how to handle the curves. *shrug*

EatTravelEat said...

Ben and Suanne,
My are you fast in looking at posts! I just posted this post up :). Thanks for the comment. I usually just put the curves in a light "S" pattern which deepens the darks, increases brightness, and makes the photo have better contrast and brightness.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

This reminds me that I haven't been in a while. I love their green onion pancake and cucumber salad. Seems silly to go for just those two things but they're soooo good.

ProtocolSnow said...

Mandarin Noodle Deli is probably my second favorite Taiwanese restaurant in SGV, with Liang Kitchen being my favorite. I like a lot of the same dishes you do at Mandarin Noodle Deli.

The owner there is quite incredible, juggling so many tasks simultaneously!

EatTravelEat said...

Wandering Chopsticks,
Those two things are the things that keep me from not going to any other noodle house restaurant! I'll visit MND, even if I have to wait or get so-so service.

Protocol Snow,
The owner is incredible! Her job used to be quite easier in Monterey Park but now in TC her job is especially hard on her.

KirkK said...

Hey ETE - That's a nice looking bowl of NRM. BTW, I enjoy all your revisits.... just like our lives, a restaurant evolves, it's nice to see the changes.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read the article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Best regards

EatTravelEat said...

Restaurants change a lot these days...especially with how the manager feels. One of our favorite restaurants is getting so so due to the attitude of the manager. Another restaurant was awful during CNY, but was quite nice during other visits! Reviewing restaurants is getting quite difficult!

Unknown said...

Happy CNY! Interesting to see the photo comparisons, and read your mouthwatering descriptions (as usual!). I like your little story about the fortune cookies too - haven't seen those in a Chinese Restaurants for years, although I did enjoy reading my "fortunes"!

EatTravelEat said...

Happy CNY to you too :). I haven't received a fortune cookie in a real chinese restaurant in at least 4 years now!

joanh said...

okay, this place looks a lot better than A and J. too bad. that's funny about your story about the guy wanting the fortune cookie.. have you seen the documentary about the fortune cookie? KILLING OF A CHINESE COOKIE

EatTravelEat said...

I've never seen anyone who wanted a fortune cookie so badly!