Mandarin Garden provides a taste of China in Riverside

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Mandarin Garden’s pickled chili beef was a perfectly well-rounded dish, complete with tender beef, a kick of spice and crunchy vegetables.
Catherine Yong/HIGHLANDER
Name: Mandarin Garden
Rating: 4/5
Location: 1445 University Avenue, Riverside, CA., 92507
Price Range: $$
Hours: Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Saturday – Sunday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Category: Mandarin, Szechwan Cuisine
Credit/Debit Card: Yes
Takeout: Yes
Delivery: No
Other amenities:            WiFi, Televisions, Good for Groups and Kids,   

          Full Bar, Bike Parking, Wheelchair Accessible  

 

It’s a cool, Thursday night and you are looking for a delicious place to go to with your friends. You want something nice but for a decent price. You could go for pizza, but you had that last night. You could get sushi, but that’s too expensive. How about Chinese?

Mandarin Garden is just a straight shot down University Avenue, a little over a mile away from campus. The atmosphere is quaint and quiet with dim lighting, making the experience intimate with whomever you are with. The walls are nicely decorated with temporal Chinese art, the booths are comfy and even the carpet is aesthetically tasteful.

The atmosphere is quaint and quiet with dim lighting, making the experience intimate with whomever you are with.

We ordered four dishes — General Tso’s chicken, pickled chili beef, Szechwan vegetable delight and shrimp with sizzling rice — which were all delicious.

General Tso’s chicken is something a novice may associate with orange chicken at Panda Express, except it is better. It is something anyone can enjoy, with its crunchy yet tender texture and diced chiles sprinkled on top. These chiles provide a nice kick to the chicken without being too overpowering. The chicken is doused in house sauce, just like every other dish we had, and contributed to why it tastes so good. Mandarin Garden’s General Tso’s chicken was priced modestly at $10.95.

The pickled chili beef, with a sticker price of $11.95, was a wonderful preparation of celery, onions, peppers, and best of all, the sauce. It was a little spicy but it only hits you after a few seconds; even then, the spice is completely manageable. This was my favorite dish because of all of the vegetables, the perfect amount of spice and the tender meat, all of which made it a well-rounded dish perfect for any occasion. The only downside to this dish was the high salt content, probably in the sauce, which overpowered even the spice.

The shrimp with sizzling rice was also very good, especially so considering I am not a shrimp person. It came decorated with bamboo cubes, carrots, rice, garlic, tomatoes and peas. The dish was prepared right in front of us, with the shrimp looking just delicious as it sizzled before being mixed with the rice and garlic underneath. As we chowed down, the shrimp did not have the super fishy flavor one would expect, but instead, the sauce and all of the other vegetables worked so well that it provided a burst of flavor that, admittedly, was unrivaled.

Last but certainly not least was one of the several vegetarian items on the menu: Szechwan vegetable delight. Szechwan cuisine comes from the Sichuan province in southwestern China and is known for being pungent and spicy with its heavy use of garlic and chilis. This dish had an authentic taste all the way from China complete with cabbage, broccoli, carrots, bok choy and water chestnuts. All of the vegetables, especially the carrots and broccoli, provided a nice crunch to the dish. Overall, even though I probably wouldn’t order an all-vegetable dish, I would definitely recommend it for vegetarians who want a nice, crunchy, spicy veggie dish.

Mandarin Garden provided a wonderful experience that I would definitely suggest to anyone looking for a closeby, tasty Chinese place. The four dishes we had were something that captured the intense culinary diversity of the menu that included hundreds of items. So, the next time you and your friends are trying to debate over the next place to go, stop by Mandarin Garden for a true taste of China right in UCR’s backyard.

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