I remember reading about the Mandarin Garden in Philadelphia Magazine some years ago. Larry Kane, in a 1994 interview, declared it “the best Chinese food in the world”. That is probably an exaggeration, but it is very good and the menu has a larger than usual number of dishes that are not the “usual fare”. You can get all the “usual” stuff (General Tso’s, Sweet and Sour this and that, Moo Shu, Lo Mein, etc.) but the variety of “specialty” dishes has impressed me on both visits.
Let’s start with location. A stone’s throw from the Willow Grove Mall on a very busy stretch of 611, you can literally die trying to get there. There’s plenty of parking, but you must find your way along the Indy 500 track to either of their entrances, neither of which scream “hey, turn in here!”
The friendly owners greet regulars and newcomers alike warmly and the dining room is pleasantly oriental. Chinese Pizza, a tasty scallion pancake and a favorite of mine, was very good, but I found the accompanying ginger soy sauce too salty without the characteristic bite of sweetness I find in most ginger soys.
Egg Drop, Hot and Sour and Wonton Soups have all been tasty, though I’ve had better Hot and Sour. Egg rolls on both visits were very good, but I’ve never had one that bests the plump and fresh ones at Golden Sea in Blue Bell. The crisp noodles on the table were served with a passable duck sauce and spicy mustard.
Capitol Pork, a selection on a previous visit, was very tasty. Slices of pork loin very lightly breaded with a Mandarin sweet and sour sauce. Very different from sweet and sour pork, this meal tastes and looks much healthier.
Peking Duck was also enjoyed and reported to be tender and well prepared.
Crispy Orange Beef enjoyed on this visit was very well done, though I don’t care for Chinese fried beef, even though the breading was very light. I prefer Orange Chicken, which was not offered but I was sure they would have made upon request. I tasted it and it was good.
I had the Ma-Lar Shrimp and Chicken. Described, hyperbole in full effect, as a “miraculous combination” of chicken and shrimp noting “a slight touch of wild pepper in the sauce makes it excitingly pleasant”. It was pleasant, though I’m not so certain it was “excitingly” so. Very tasty with the house Chicken Fried Rice, which was a gigantic mound of perfectly cooked rice, chicken and vegetables.
A full bar is offered and the house tea and soft drinks were also fresh and served as they should be (piping hot and ice cold).
Overall the meal is a value because the portions of just about everything are so big you’re going home with at least one more full meal in the take out containers and all for an average of about $20 per person.
York and Davisville Roads
Willow Grove PA 19090
- Full bar and wine list
- Reservations suggested
for four or more
- Smoke free
- Wheelchair accessible