Mandarin Chinese Bistro on Riverside Drive is hands-down the prettiest Chinese restaurant in town. Carved wooden sculptures wind throughout the entrance and beyond; tiles decorated with Chinese illustrations cover the ceiling and sumptuous designs decorate the walls.
The next thing that struck us after the decor was the quiet atmosphere. I can imagine how welcome an evening here would be after a loud or trying day at work. There are so many tables, set so far apart, that it’s easy to imagine you are the only ones there. In fact, I caught myself talking entirely too loudly when we first entered, before I realized that other people were already there having dinner.
We began with a few appetizers. The Mandarin spring rolls were very crunchy and filled with lots of veggies and a little shrimp. At $3.15 for two large rolls, these are well priced. The crab angles come four for $4.95 and are mostly cream cheese with a little snow crab.
Next, we tried some Chinese restaurant staples. The sweet and sour chicken was obviously fresh and well made, and the $9.50 dinner serving could easily make more than one meal. The orange chicken was the scene-stealer, though. This beautiful golden fried chicken is served with plenty of pineapple in a truly fresh-tasting orange sauce, with thin slices of orange as garnish. This, for a quarter more, is the better deal if you like the sweeter, fried Chinese dishes.
The next dish we tried was the Teriyaki chicken for $10.75. The meat was tender, not chewy, and came with enough veggies to make you feel like it might even be healthy. From the Chef’s Special menu, we ordered the Sizzling Seafood Delight, which arrives at your table on a platter full of vegetables, shrimp and scallops. Unfortunately, the crab meat was imitation and was a real disappointment. It made me wonder about the authenticity of the scallops as well, especially at $14.95.
Other items on the Chef’s Special menu that sounded interesting were the Seafood in Bird’s Nest and the Hot Braised Whole Red Snapper. The first one has sauteed shrimp and scallops on a nest made of potatoes. The fish dish is a Hunan style crispy whole fish, served in the chefs special sauce. They are $15.95 and $19.95, respectively.
Mandarin gets high marks for having Chinese cuisine as part of the children’s menu. Sesame chicken is a battered and fried chicken served in a peanut-like sauce for $5.95. The Child’s Delight consists of an egg roll, four fried chicken wings and two fried shrimp for $6.25.
Mandarin Chinese Bistro is a great choice for local Chinese food in a beautiful, serene setting.
If you have been disappointed by lackluster Chinese restaurants under fluorescent lighting, you owe yourself a visit to the Mandarin.
The Mandarin Chinese Bistro
Address: 3086 Riverside Drive
Phone: (478) 477-5728
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; closed Mondays
Payment: Cash, credit
Kids Menu: Yes
Noise Level: Low
Health Rating: 90
Price range: Lunch $6.50; dinner $9.95-$19.95
Rating: 3 stars