Saw the "99 things to eat in LA before you die" article in LA Weekly.
This grabbed my attention:
"...cha chiang mein, hand-pulled noodles in a dense, black sauce of fermented beans and pork, is out of this world. Mandarin House, 3074 W. Eighth St., Koreatown. (213) 386-8976."
We've never tried Korean Chinese food, and hand pulled noodles close to our home clinched the deal.
We ordered $7.80 wor wonton (50 cents more than standard wonton soup-- we asked "what's the difference?" Answer: wor wonton has seafood in it), mixed veggies (about $8) and cha chiang mian with meat (also about $8)
The only panchan served was a small plate of kimchi. Oddly sweet, but really delicious. When the server saw that we finished the plate, she brought out a much bigger plate the second time. I think we passed the test.
The soup was fine. Huge bowl, clear and clean, and a little sweet (likely from the artificial crabmeat. Nothing extraordinary. Likewise with the mixed veggies-- standard cornstarch thickened pan fried veggies.... broccoli, water chestnuts, peapods, etc.
And now, the cha chiang mian. I went to Yelp only because I was unable to find any substantive information from Chowhound on Mandarin House in Koreatown. Several yelpers commented that the cha chiang mian used to be fantastic, but lately it has suffered from a lack of flavor. Well, clearly Jgold had visited recently... he wouldn't have printed specious information without current first hand data, right?
We were served two bowls.... a smallish bowl of very nice looking hand pulled noodles (unsauced) and a GIGANTIC bowl of the black and bubbly, bumpy and lumpy cha chiang sauce. Like, an absurd amount of sauce for that quantity of noodles. After finishing all the noodles, the bowl of sauce was still filled nearly to the brim.
Also, the sauce *looked* like it should reek unctious flavor. It was deeply black, with little lumps of onions and whatever else (ostensibly, meat). We ladled a generous amount onto each of our bowls and took a bite. I don't know how they did it, but it tasted like thickened water, flavored with black beans and onions. Meat wasn't detectable at all. The noodles themselves were nice... a little too soft, but chewy enough, and fresh. But my Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) and I came away baffled... how in the world can you remove virtually all of the flavor from a bowl of viscous, black sauce?? I've never experienced anything quite so odd.
Any other experiences at Mandarin House that other hounds with like to share?