“Mandarin Deli?” Yes, as perplexing of a picture that combination of two words seem to paint, this small chain of LA chinese restaurants are indeed delis of a sort. No gefilte fish, Moishe. But can I offer you some boiled fish dumplings instead? Knishes? No can do, but they make a fantastic scallion cake that disappears quickly once one has married the flaky, oily pancake with a splash of vinegar and soy sauce. Tofu salad, made of “noodles” made from soy, slices of cucumber, and dressed in a refreshing cilantro dressing is a perfect prelude to any meal here. Or slices of cured beef and duck accompanied by preserved duck eggs, the asian persuasion take on classic cold cuts are an interesting and tasty appetizer. A personal favourite on the menu are the dozen or so noodle dishes, some dry (without soup) and others in rich broths. Almost every one of my visits include an order of the spicy chile noodle soup. The pork based broth’s coloration seems to signify the threat of a three-alarm fire. Like the feigned naughtiness of a Britney dance number, in actuality the soup’s hot factor is more imagined than real. The deep red broth is only caliente enough to induce a pleasing heat in the mouth, and the medium thickness noodles’ chewiness balance out the flavour to a slurp worthy experience.
But the real star of the Mandarin Deli menu is the fried potstickers. Somehow each potstickers is uniformly slightly golden brown and crisped on the flat bottomed side, while the top portion glistens in a moistened oily state that is the culinary equivalent of an aroused, baby-oiled Brooke Burke laying in a bed with the come hither look. In both cases, they’re going to get eaten. And eat them I do, splashed with more of the vinegar and soy sauce combination, sometimes with a healthy dollop of hot chile oil to take the experience to another level. Potstickers like these are meant to be scarfed down hot, burning your mouth the whole way down. But you’ll do it without regard because the taste makes each blistering bite worth it. Best of all, two people can walk away quite full for about $19. Now that’s a price that both LÈi Fong and Shlomo both can appreciate!
Mandarin Deli Restaurant, 9305 Reseda Blvd – Northridge, and, 356 E. 2nd St. – Little Tokyo