Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Mandarin Noodle Deli- Temple City

New Mandarin Noodle Deli Menu Cover

Do you know about the breaking news yet? As reported on the sidebar, Mandarin Noodle Deli closed on April 4, 2010. (If you didn't already know by the news on Yelp!) The owner wanted to take a break, and open another restaurant in a few months after her break. This was a shock, a unusual feeling for most people and me. This owner has been working her restaurants (used to be Monterey Park, then she moved to Temple City) for over 30 years. For me, it's a childhood restaurant. Without her restaurant available to us as we desired, it felt weird as we had a "hole" now in terms of our options to choose from. We have been eating there for a very, very long time and to see the owner leave was a bit sad. And we forgot to visit on the closing night.

So, what happened with the location? A new restaurant came in. "New Mandarin Noodle Deli." Similar name, you say. But the Chinese name is completely different. And if you can read it, they are a Shan Dong style restaurant.

However, most people came here thinking it would be the same as the old owner. The old carryout business was still busy here, as customers thought it was the old Mandarin Noodle Deli. Serious fans of the old location however came to hopefully find something similar to the old owner. A group of seniors came in, just to check. They noticed all the details; they made sure everything they liked was still good or bad. When more members of the group came in, the existing group would fill them in on the details. Who knew the fans of Mandarin Noodle Deli were this serious? We came, hoping for a good replacement restaurant.

Interior

The outside was the same as before, as they had not yet refurbished that portion yet. However, inside, there was a new splash of paint. The new owner seemed to like a very dark restaurant. Why? I like light! (You know me...) Even the newly installed air conditioner was not turned on. By the end of the meal, we were sweating like it was summer.

Interior

The shelf of materials and writing/calligraphy had been removed as well, now all blank. There were not too many customers during our weekday visit, but there were plenty of take out orders!

Painting

The new owner also put large paintings up to make the restaurant seem not so boring. Even so, the restaurant felt plain compared to its old past.

We sat down, browsed the menu, and made sure to order what we liked about the old Mandarin Noodle Deli. Then, when the waitress came, we asked what was special and asked if the old chefs were still here. What did she say? "Nope, the old chefs are gone. Everything is new, but it's good! Try our Sheng Jian Bao; it is our specialty." So that's what we did.

Simmered Seaweed

We started out with some Simmered Seaweed (2.95 USD), and when it arrived at the table, we were all disappointed. Why? Because it was just wakame seaweed with some ponzu sauce. Quite obvious, as I've made this at home for years after 99 Ranch Market introduced the concept. Unfortunately, this wakame tends to be a bit "fishy" or off tasting and if you don't do much with it, it doesn't taste very good. In addition, the seaweed texture was a mix of crunchy and limp, which was unusual. This dish in general was a bit different from your usual seaweed appetizer. For us, lots of vinegar solved the trick, but the point is that we should not need to alter appetizers like these. Portion size was small but I won't get into that.

Scallion Thick Pan Cake (Green Onion Pancake)

What we all commonly call "green onion pancakes" is called Scallion Thick Pan Cake (3.50 USD) here. Green Onion Pancakes were the signature, "the awesometacular" item of the past management. How was this? In terms of style, this was more like Earthen's version, more pillow-y with less layers. However, it lost the fragrance and the green onion flavors of the old Mandarin Noodle Deli. It itself basically had no green onion flavor. Instead it is now more like bread to go along with your meal. Ahem, it was as bad as my version. Which is pretty bad as I had so little scallions to use! Nothing great to eat by itself, but it worked as a vehicle for something else. But why? The point of calling it a green onion pancake is for the green onions. Old version, please come back.

Beef Stewed Noodle Soup

Another signature item of the old management arrived next: Beef Stewed noodle Soup (6.75 USD).

Beef Stewed Noodle Soup Hand Pull Noodle Detail

You can actually pick between shaved "dao xiao" noodles or hand pulled noodles "shou la mian"). We asked for the hand pulled noodles and they were quite good, chewy with a nice pull. The broth was similar to Dumpling 888 (Yuan Bao, maybe now Jing Bao as there is a new owner. Post coming soon) in El Monte, but more potent in flavor, more rich and spicy. Good stewed meat as well. I don't know why, but I kept comparing this bowl of Niu Rou Mian to Wei Chuan's frozen version. Because it was actually quite similar! Ahem. Plenty of vinegar was added by our dining companion so it shows this isn't the best we've had. I think I'll go back to A&J for NRM now. It's better compared to here, but the noodles are much more interesting here. At least the beef noodle soup here is not bad. But there are better versions! Good job on the noodles though, I have to say. Everything else was standard.

House Decocted Buns (Pan Fried Buns) (Sheng Jian Bao)

The recommendation, the House Decocted Buns (Pan Fried Buns) or "Sheng Jian Bao" (6.95 USD) arrived next. We were going to order their other versions with bamboo and mushroom, but after learning they were canned we chose the original pork version.

House Decocted Buns (Pan Fried Buns) (Sheng Jian Bao) Interior

These were okay, if not the best we have eaten yet. The bottom grilled portion was very flavorful but also a bit thick and too crispy. There was more bread on top rather than the bottom and the meat, although tasty, was given in stingy amounts. Also quite oily, with the bread being regular in terms of moistness. The best Sheng Jian Bao for me is Noodle House in Arcadia, where the bread is puffy, even a bit buttery and rich, and the meat is ultra flavorful. Dipped in a spicy soy sauce, they are made even better. But too bad I don't know where the owner is now for a plate of them! Why is it that the past seems to be better in the present?

Leek Cake (Jiu Cai He Zi)

We ended the meal with a Leek Cake (aka Chive Pie or "Jiu Cai He Zi") (2.95 USD). This was obviously made fresh and then frozen, as the chives were all limp and it tasted like something of a frozen product (a la Dumpling House from last year).

Leek Cake (Jiu Cai He Zi) Interior

There were plenty of vhives, not so much of the egg or glass noodle. A bit of dried shrimp was added for flavor. Served very hot and crisp- pretty much the positive! Otherwise Noodle House in Arcadia is still the best I've had. Fat, tons of great filling, and crispy and chewy bread.

In overall? Too bad. This place doesn't live up to its location anymore. If you are looking for the old location, say bye bye for now. Come here with different expectations. It's been quite sad, since all the new restaurants that have opened up in Arcadia and Temple City over the past months haven't been impressive at all, except for Capital which is now a go to anytime for dim sum! (But still, I can't really, really like it as they use way too many additional weird items like baking soda and food coloring!) And old restaurants like Empress Harbor, Ocean Star, and NBC? They are getting worse and worse to the point of shock. Why can't the traditional places be like how they used to be? As much as we love new style places like Capital, Sea Harbour, and the like, there are people out there looking for food that they loved a few years ago. And this new generation of restaurants is just so much different in quality- many using processed products and additional items like food coloring and MSG when you really don't need them!

To continue on the story about the large group of seniors who just came here to check out if it was like the old location, they would be like this"Yay, this is like it used to be!" but that only popped up once, only for the fried rice. They left kind of feeling sad, but they were happy to be eating in the location!

Time will tell if New Mandarin Noodle Deli is successful. From what it seems right now, the vibe here is just getting worse. Bad reviews on Yelp. And a medicore review from me. My dining companions, if they were writing this, would say it was worse than what I felt, but we all find a way to make our negatives sound like a positive or else people will hate us. But who knows? They might change their recipes with customer responses, even if it is customary to not say anything bad to the owner.

Of course, there will be plenty of people waiting for the old owner to open shop somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley. After more than 30 years, it's hard to see your old favorite dining spot go away. And I will be waiting, waiting for that day to come.


New Mandarin Noodle Deli
9537 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City, CA 91780
Tel: (626) 309-4318

New Mandarin Noodle Deli in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

9 comments:

Protocol Snow said...

A sad day indeed :(

Hopefully the owner won't decide to retire. 30+ years is a long time to work.

Mr. Pineapple Man said...

everything looks so delicious!! great pics

EatTravelEat said...

Protocol Snow,
Most definitely!

Mr. Pineapple Man,
Thanks! I find it funny that people like the photos of restaurants I think are so-so or okay. :)

pigwig said...

Thank you for reviewing this. I just got a phone call from my mom in CA telling me this news, which made me sad! I'm in Massachusetts right now, and I was looking forward to going back there this summer to eat! We've been eating at her restaurants since I was 6. Yeah, that's almost 30 years. Dear god.

I asked her once how they make the onion pancakes and she wouldn't tell me. It made me so sad, since I didn't live in CA anymore.

But, I do hope your blog will say if you find her new restaurant? I must have some noodle soup when I go home! :D

EatTravelEat said...

pigwig,
You're welcome! Hopefully the owner will open up and make an advertisement so we know she made a new restaurant. Those green onion pancakes are a mystery. No one has come close to making it exactly like her version!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

She did make the best green onion pancakes ever. If she was only going to close for a few months, why not just take that time off and reopen? I kept meaning to go back too since I hadn't been in a long while.

EatTravelEat said...

Wandering Chopsticks,
Yep, I was going to wonder about that too! Probably because of the rent issue of not having someone take over for a few months? Where ever she moves, I hope it isn't too far. Although I made the trek to Monterey Park for many years before they moved to Temple City (but both look quite similar).

pigwig said...

hi! My sister emailed me saying that she is going to reopen at a new location in mid December. No address, just that it's in Temple City.

EatTravelEat said...

pigwig,
Yep, I got the news too! Thanks for the update though. It's on El Monte? and Temple City Blvd, pretty much going further south where the old location was, next to a supermarket. Also it's going to be called House of Mandarin Noodle.