This weekend I walked a mile in the shoes of VI, trying mandarin kitchen that he first mentioned on this board and la quebrada which he will mention at the drop of the hat. I also had to try some of the things I had ogled at freddy's on the chowathon other than the gelato.
Friday night we ate at mandarin kitchen. This spot between the phoenix and the bank mini-parking lot is kinda of a lao sze chuan junior. Many of the same dishes, but smaller menu, smaller place, and no chef tony on the tv. Being with 2 vegetarians, and 2 kids (not too spicy please) are ordering was slightly hamstrung but we made the best of it. Potstickers for the kids, wrapper was thick, toothsome and and achieved the correct amount of doneness on the pan, the filling however was slightly disappointing. The green been with spicy balck bean sauce appetizer was very similar to a dish i've had at lsc but a little bit better. Chopped green beans, whole fermented black beans and chunks of marinated tofu become a very salty, savory mixture. Both my wife and i liked mandarin kitchen's version better (it was a little bit juicier and not overpoweringly salty). For the vegetarians we ordered sichuan eggplant in garlic sauce which was fine (their version had hints of some tomato based chili paste or possibly catsup)and we tried to order snow pea leaves. Seeing "sauteed snow pe" on the menu we thought we confirmed with the waiter that these were the shots or leaves (can somebody tell me the pronunciation or intonations for dao miou) but a platter of pea pods came out. They were much better than we thought when we groaned with disappointment at seeing no clorophyll goodness. Crunchy and garlicky. 2 meat dishes were ordered, pork with dried tofu and leeks and on the recommendation of the waiter something called bbq lamb, sichuan style. The pork and tofu (actually with chives not leeks - which is the dish i anticipated)was tasty but not the best version of that dish i hav had, but the winner was defintiely the lamb bbq. If you are anticipating smoky lamb, pit sytle, you'll be disappointed. What arrived was slice lamb, with many exploded little red chiles, slices of jalapeno, and a few bell peppers, with lots of whole cumin. It was very reminiscent of the lamb with pure cumin we ate at the chowhound meal at lsc but i thought far better (it was much hotter). Lots of potential there.
saturday lunch i had to take the wife and kids to freddy's. Everything looks so good we had to get a little bit og almost everything. You have to like a place that has no take out menu and just says call us up and we'll tell you what we made today. Especially as there's a big sign over the handwritten menu on the wall saying collect 10 menus and get free pizza. We picked up seafood salad, caprese with the little fresh balls of mozzarela, slices of eggplant and sausage pizza, fried marinated artichokes, 2 huge sausage sandwiches,and pickled cherry peppers stuffed with provolone and prosciutto. I have to agree with Dave Hammond on the stuff just not living up to the promise of its looks. As much as i wanted everything to be great only the sausage sandwiched with their extralong lenghth and the marinated artichokes stood out as better than comparable spots elsewhere. I'll still go back however for the gelato.
That night we decided to finally check out la quebrada on its desolated stretch of roosevelt. the family , my sis and my dad dined with quite a few cops and families from the neighborhood that night. Horchatas that were first up were quite full of vanilla, a little too much for my taste but my son preffered them to most of the horchatas he's had (of course he likes vanilla shakes too). I prefer mine with notes of cinnamon and almond. after nibbling on chips and chunky salsa in molcajetes, we split some fresh mortared guacamole (needed a little salt but nice and chunky)and a very fresh tasty tostada de ceviche de camaron.
entrees ordered were great chilaquiles (Ms. VI's favorite was also my wifes)carne en chile de arbol, filete de res oaxaqueno, huarache de hongo, and a caldo de pescado. The huarache was a fresh sandal of masa (though not as nice as dona lolis's) and filete was as tender as VI described, though the sauce was forgettabel. The best was the carne en chile de arbol sauce, The steak was meaty and tasty if a little tough, but the sauce was very good (shared so that everyone at the table could put some on their rice) smoky, chunky, and a little spicy. The do not order dish was the caldo de pescado (my sister's, she has a tendency to order the worst dish on the menu). It may have been her conversation with our server where she tried to communicate the fact that she wanted it very spicy, but was resulted was the exact opposite: A watery, fairly tasteless large bowl (containing nice chunks of tender fish), that even when doctored with the provided lime, cilantro and an requested plate of fresh diced raw jalapeneo had little flavor. Accompanying everything were the fresh flour tortillas that rob rightly singled out for attention in his reviews. They were what I enjoyed most about the meal.
2143 S. Archer Ave.
1600 S. 61st Ave.
closes at 7:00 pm
4859 W. Roosevelt Road