Friday, 3 June 2011
Mandarin Kitchen, 14-16 Queensway (Bayswater), W2 3RX, London
A friend mentioned about a month ago that London is famous for its lobster noodle (read this) and since then, I've been hearing a lot about this little crustacean. Friends have taken friends to try lobster noodles across London, so how could I miss out on this opportunity to have MORE lobster noodle?
As we'd already tried the one at Pearl Liang, I decided to take my parents to try out the one at Mandarin Kitchen (supposedly one of the 2 best ones in London, with the other one being Pearl Liang. Don't ask me who made this list up, I don't know.)
Despite having eaten at Bayswater numerous times, I always tend to avoid the restaurants which are right outside the station. It's one of those things, isn't it. When the restaurant is right where the tourists are, they usually aren't made of much.
Which is why I've not really had the urge to try Mandarin Kitchen out. Plus, the decor reminded me of a disco in the seventies (from what I can tell based on Google images, anyway).
With some hesitation, we went into the restaurant, to be pleasantly surprised by how much light there was in there. Looking in from the outside, I expected yellowing fluorescent lights and brown furniture, but was greeted instead with quite a lot of sunlight, and brown furniture. Perhaps without the element of sunlight, it would have been yellowing fluorescent lights? You tell me.
We were led to a nice, cosy table for 4 by the window, which was tinted with some weird pictures of sea life - not sure if that was meant to encourage you to eat them, or stay off them, but whatever the case, we were here for Lobster noodle goodness.
The waitress (who started off being Disapproving Head Teacher, only to end the meal being Most Friendly and Nice Waitress) took our order. Aside from the obvious fact that a whole meal consisting of JUST lobster noodles would have meant baked beans for the rest of the month, we also wanted to give the other dishes a go, just in case this was a gem of a find.
So, we decided to order a lobster noodle portion for 4, as a starter almost, which consists of 1 lobster, and 3 noodles (£30). The waitress tried to tell us that this wouldn't be enough, but after some convincing (on our part, to her) that we intended to order more dishes, yes, and that we weren't going to just have starter portions of lobster noodles, she relented and allowed us to continue ordering the other dishes.
(I don't have the menu with me, and can't fully remember what the dishes were called, so I won't list the prices down but try to describe them from taste.)
Lobster noodle (as a starter for 4, £30)
So, I guess the main question here is 'How does this compare to the one at Pearl Liang, seeing as they're usually taking the top 2 spots in the Lobster Noodle League?'
Well, the lobster here is just as fresh as the one from Pearl Liang, and both had chunky, crunchy, juicy lobster meat. The main differentiating factor between the 2, and what ultimately makes me say that Pearl Liang's version is better, was the texture of the noodles.
The noodles at Pearl Liang were cooked to perfection, maintaining a pleasing al-dante texture which lasted throughout the meal. Crunchy yet soft, delightfully springy, they went very well with the lobster and the sauce. The noodles here, on the other hand, were slightly overcooked, and because of that, became soggy.
Rather than forming the perfect accompaniment to the fresh lobster, the noodles here kinda brought it down with its slight soggy texture. A pity, really, as I wanted to impress my folks with this dish. Maybe it's a one-off, as I'm sure they can do better with noodles, since they did so well with the lobster.
Yeung Chow Fried Rice
Again, while being an OK example of a fried rice dish, it wasn't the best I've had. While it wasn't greasy (plus point), and there were a few shrimps in the dish, it didn't have much 'wok hei' (translated to mean wok power, don't laugh) to make it an outstanding dish.
Kailan with oyster sauce
The kailan was fresh, and you can see how vibrantly green it was. The stalks were thick, yet tender and juicy, while the leaves crunched a crisp, satisfying crunch when chewed on. One of the better dishes in the meal.
Stuffed seafood tofu in claypot
While this was a pleasant enough dish of smooth tofu, mixed with some seafood giving it a slightly rougher texture and sweet taste, I wasn't completely impressed by it.
To me, the dish lacked any oopmh and while it was served in the claypot, it didn't have the claypot sizzle like what I'd expect from a dish that was actually cooked (at least for a while) in the pot itself. Maybe it was cooked in the pot, I don't know, but to me, it seemed like it was cooked elsewhere and then poured into the pot for presentational purposes. Because of that, it kinda felt a little like it was lacking something.
Overall, I found the food here to be average, and unless I'm in the area, I'll probably stick with other tried and tested favourites for the tried and tested dishes.