We went to Mandarin Bistro in Newbury Park for dinner last night. We don't normally go out to eat on Mother's Day but we made an exception this time and hoped we didn't make a mistake. We got there about 6:00pm and they were pretty busy, the place was full and there was a large party ahead of us. However, being just two of us and that we were next, they said it would be about 5 minutes, we decided to wait. It ended up being more like 15-20 minutes, but that was acceptable to us. Being Mother's day they were extra busy, with many large parties. I was pleased to see many tables with Asian people eating there, that's a great sign!!
This place is much larger than Sesame Inn. It is also much louder. It's basically and "L" shape, and when you walk in there are tables on the left and on the right. The kitchen is sort of in the middle and open, so you get not only the noise from the patrons but all the kitchen noise. It was quite loud in there. However, after you walk past the tables on the right, there's a small section in the "_" portion of the "L". There are only about 4 to 6 tables in there and it is far from the din of the other room, and that's where we were (luckily) seated.
The menu is beautiful with many more selections than the Sesame Inn. It's full of pictures of all the appetizers and entrées and they looked really good. We started with Hot & Sour soup and it was very good. It wasn’t the cloying type where they use too much corn starch, it was actually in a broth, the way we prefer. I like vinegar, but it wasn't overloaded with vinegar as many are. Good start.
For dinner we had Honey Walnut Shrimp, Kung Pao Chicken, Sautéed string beans and brown rice. The shrimp were delicious, the best walnut shrimp I've ever had. Sometimes when I order this dish it comes with a gooey white sauce all over the shrimp. No sauce here, just nice big delicious shrimp on a bed of rice. The Kung Pao was a little disappointing. The chicken and peanuts were good, but it was lacking the flavors I expect in this dish. There were no water chestnuts, carrots, or anything besides the chicken and peanuts. A little oyster sauce or hoisin sauce would have improved this dish dramatically. The Sautéed string beans were very good, in a nice Szechuan sauce. I think I prefer this dish at the Sesame Inn, but there was nothing wrong with this one.
Overall we were quite pleased with our meal and will definitely be returning to try other dishes. The prices were about the same as SI, and while the portions were of an adequate size, SI takes the prize for much larger portions. We expected poorer service due to being so crowded, but it wasn't bad at all and the waitress was very nice and accommodating.
It's great that we have 2 good choices for Chinese food (sort of) in the area, not close but definitely worth the drive.