Home > Restaurants > Ballard Mandarin Chinese Restaurant – 8/5/11

Ballard Mandarin Chinese Restaurant – 8/5/11


Location: 5500 8th Ave NW


Mon-Thurs: 11:30-9

Fri: 11:30-10

Sat: 12-10

Sun: 4-9

After watching a “Foodography” program about Chinese food, J and I decided it was time to try one of Ballard’s other Chinese restaurants, Ballard Mandarin. Located on the corner of 8th and Market, it’s hard to miss Ballard Mandarin’s rather large, yellow building. Oddly, when you enter, it seems smaller. We were seated in the dining area directly inside the door. Off to the right seemed to be another dining area but we couldn’t tell since the lights were out.

Their extensive menu consists of the usual Chinese fare and flavors, chow mein, fried rice, Mongolian beef, General Tao’s Chicken, with a number of dishes I hadn’t seen before. Snow White chicken. Palace beef. Yu Hsiang pork. They also have a couple of dinner combos that give you a choice of soup, entrée and a couple egg rolls. Their prices are on par with other Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood.

The Service:

Our server was a friendly, older Chinese woman who asked after us during each stage of the meal. When we started to order egg rolls and two entrees, she quickly suggested we order the Citron Dinner combo for a better deal. We were even able to use the entrée J wanted, which wasn’t included in the choice of entrée, as part of the combo.

At the end of the meal, she insisted on boxing everything left for us to take home. Even the items we really didn’t want. She had such a grandmotherly manner in the style of “If you don’t clear your plates, you WILL take what is left home” that neither of us could refuse.

The Drink:

Water and a huge pot of molten Green Tea.

The Food:

Our meal stared with an enormous bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. The soup was quite spicy, more warm than burning, with a tangy, vinegar after flavor. A great number of firm tofu pieces floated in the broth with scallions, peas and little bits of corn. Pretty good but way too much for just the two of us.

Next came two very hot Egg Rolls with an orange based dipping sauce. Since I have sensitivity to oranges, I dipped my egg roll in soy sauce. It was pretty good. Crisp on the outside without being greasy. Lighter than many egg rolls I’ve had. The vegetables inside did taste a bit flat, though.

For my entrée I chose the Salted Pepper Chicken with green pepper, onion, garlic and no sauce. The batter-fried chunks of chicken were flavorful and surprisingly moist considering the crunchiness of the exterior. I’ve had other entrees cooked in a similar style that were dry yet pretty greasy. I can easily imagine how well this style of chicken would hold up to a sweet and sour or General Tao’s sauce. The peppers and onions, wok fried in a savory and delicious mix of garlic and pepper, held onto their natural crispness without getting mushy. All in all, a really good entrée.

J ordered the Braised Tofu with Beef, pea pods, corn, cabbage and carrots. The braised tofu had a nice springy texture with just a touch of pan-fried flavor. Otherwise this entrée was not as good as my chicken. The chewy beef and mushy vegetables were drenched in a bland sauce that needed something … garlic, pepper, salt, or some sort of spice … to give it definition.

The Price:

2 Citron Dinner Combos: 12.35 ea

The Verdict:

I’m finding Ballard Mandarin hard to review. On the one hand, the food was mostly good other than the need for a bit more flavor in J’s entrée. The salted pepper chicken was exceptional. Frankly, it was far less greasy than the Chinese food we’ve gotten at Louie’s. J, who is originally from Pittsburgh, described Ballard Mandarin as reminiscent of an East coast Chinese restaurant with less grease and MSG.

On the other hand, the restaurant itself was off putting. The dining room was plain, a bit worn and kind of dirty. Worn benches. Greasy windows. It was sort of off putting to be honest. If we go back, we’ll get our meal to go.

I have a feeling that, while the food is better at Ballard Mandarin, the convenience of Louie’s to our apartment will cause us to skip going back anytime soon. It may be one of those places we go back to every once in a while, whenever the memory of the salted pepper chicken brings it to mind.

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