In my continuing efforts to eat at every restaurant in Palo Alto, GF and I played restaurant roulette last weekend. We've got a (shorter and shorter) list of every restaurant in the greater university ave area [our first focal point] that we've not eaten at, and we call up random.org for three numbers: a primary, secondary, and tertiary.
By the rules of the game, you're only allowed to go after the secondary or tertiary if there's no tables available or the target restaurant is closed.
I think of restaurant roulette like russian roulette. Some day, the Cheesecake Factory is going to come up, and we're going to have to eat there. *shiver*.
Thus we found ourselves at Mandrin Gourmet. I've always kind of liked the looks of the place, but Yelp is far past unenthusiastic [but what does yelp know], and it's very hard to eat chinese in PA when MV and San Mateo are so close and so good.
MG is not my style of chinese. The room is hushed, tables are far apart, the room is lit "atmospherically", which is to say, dimly. We considered eating at the (empty) bar so we could watch some olympics and not fall asleep, but ended up at a rather nice booth.
The menu is about 90% old-line chinese american favorites, but there's some more interesting options. We started with water dumplings in spicy oil sauce, which were decent, good tooth to the dough, bright ginger taste, nice hot oil. Changsha chicken, which I always confuse with 1000 chili chicken, was tasty too, served in a foil pouch, a small amount of heat, nice non-gloopy clean taste. Mongolian lamb was a nice cut of lamb, slight amount of gamy taste to make it interesting.
Overall, not bad. "Clean" in a california way, with a certain snap to the veggies. Reminded me a little of Eliza's in SF. Not authentic, but not bad. I think the price was a bit north of $40 for two with no beer.
I'd have to call it my favorite chinese in university ave at this point, as I've had nothing but highly american food at Jing Jing and the unmemorable place next to Jing Jing, and my old favorite Windy's is closed [windy's was hit or miss, but homey, fast and cheap and usually decent]. This is not saying much, but there you go.
Honestly, I would take parents there. I think of GF's parents, who think *any* chinese is exotic. They'd be comforted by the surroundings, and would probably enjoy the lemon chicken, and I could have something a little more sprightly. Given they dragged us to Su Hong *menlo park* last time they were here, this would be a firm upgrade. Although I should really talk them into a 15 minute drive for the Good Stuff.