Did anyone else notice how few times Phil Vettel wrote up a resturant in December? Oddly, one place that I depend on for good tips, is Chicago magazine. I like to believe everything good comes from Anne Spielsman, but she may share some of the credit.
The current issue has a blurb on Manarian Kitchen (the Inc. comes from the menu). When I saw the short review, I thought maybe this is the long sought after northern style place of my dreams. So, last week when we were in chinatown, I stopped in to see. No, I found out, not Peking style, but szechuan. It smelled good. I picked up a take-out menu.
While the menu is similiar to Spring World and Lao Sze Chuan, what struck me was the lunch specials. There are two versions. An american set: you know moo shu, fried rice, etc., and a "real" set: various noodles, dumplings, and other interesting sounding dishes. Nothing on the authentic side cost more than $4.75. It was clear that the american stuff came with soup du jour, spring roll, rice and fruit. We were not sure what the chinese lunch included.
So, we decided to try today. It took some mananuvering to get the chinese lunch special sheet as English was not well spoken. Then, we ordered with abandon. Stir fried egg noodles (for the kids), don-don noodles with szechuan style sauce (after much convincing that we like spicy), chef's special dry chili chicken, once we established our spice bona fides, the waiter steered us to a three pepper rated dish (the noodles were merely rated one pepper), peking dumplings (glorified in chicago mag) and scallion pancakes.
Well, we did get soup first. Hot and Sour, really so hot, who could taste sour or anything else. It was funny that they would warn against any dish and then serve a house soup so peppery that we could not possibly be served anything else too spicy.
Then, lunch. Filling to the extreme, our table. The kids noodles came out first, in a steel casserole pot. The egg in the title ended up referring to an ample ommlette inside the broth, not to the kind of noodle. As happens so often, the kids were blase about it. Even though it had rather the same texture as Hannah's beloved over-the-bridge noodles. Luckily, they enjoyed the super-hot, chicken and the grease is good for you, pancakes. The dumplings were contrastingly light, perfect with the chinese "balsamic" vinegar. Perhaps, I enjoyed best, a little dish of marinated cabbage brought out by the waiter about half way through the lunch, a palate cleanser I suppose.
Do not go to Mandarian Kitchen unless you can stomach this kind of food. Oily, chili doused, ginger scented and garlic pre-dominating, it is the kind of stuff that wholly satisfies on a chilly day (hahaha).
Mandarian Kitchen Inc.
2143 S. Archer Avenu
Chicago, IL 60616
(Mandarian Kitchen is not in the chinatown mall, but a few doors down from Phoenix)
Note, I could not find a link to the Chicago Mag review, but I noticed there are alot of interesting listings in the Chicago Mag budget beat section, including a peruvian place I've never heard of.