.The Beverly Hills Outlook
Mandarin Express: No "Ordinary" Chinese Restaurant
REVIEWED BY CYNTHIA CITRON
If the food makes your taste buds sing, you can be sure that word of mouth will make the restaurant a success.
And so it is with Mandarin Express, a most unlikely venue set in a strip mall in Agoura Hills. It's mostly one of those neighborhood take-out places: a storefront with too-bright lighting and a few tables and chairs for those people who don't care much about ambience.
But then Chef Chang and his charming partner Kim start bringing out the food and you think you've died and gone to heaven. Fust of all, there are 302 entries on the menu—you could die of starvation before you could make a choice. So my friends and I just left it up to Chang and Kim.
They started us off with "Three Countries Seafood Tom Yam" an original-recipe spicy soup filled with shrimp that Kim said was French, Chinese, and Thai. We thought it was out of this world.
They followed that with light, flaky vegetable egg rolls in a Midori kiwi liqueur sauce and crab and cream cheese wonton, so delicious and mysterious you'd never guess what's in them unless you were told.
Then there was Kelsey Grammer chicken, named for the "Frasier" star because it's what he comes in to take out. He orders it with orange sauce, but ours had a peach and strawberry liqueur sauce that was delicate and subtle, not drowning out the flavor of the crispy chicken.
And Chef Chang's "world famous garlic shrimp with string beans." If it's not exactly "world famous" it certainly deserves to be.
Then they brought out my personal favorite: jumbo scallops with snow peas, pine nuts, peanuts, and sesame, in a sauce made of golden tequila. I'm not particularly a tequila fan, but this sauce was definitely worth the buzz.
By tins time we were too stuffed to have the final course: Curry Garam Masala Mock Beef. There are more than 100 "mock" dishes on the menu: mock chicken, mock duck, mock fish, mock shrimp, mock beef, etc. Made, I suppose, with tofu and soy. It's something the Hindus do, and if you've ever had the good fortune to have a meatless meal in an Indian home, you'd swear the main course was steak!
Mandarin Express also offers 25 entrees on their "Exotic New Menu." These include seven varieties of alligator or venison, including Korean style, new classic Szechuan, or with turmeric lemon grass sauce. The alligator comes from Louisiana; the venison from New Zealand.
Then there is Cajun bean curd skin, wild boar, and Royal pasta, made with purple caviar, garlic, and scallions.
As well as the "regular" Chinese dishes: mu-shu, egg foo young, sweet and sour anything, and chow fun. Aptly named, because all the chow was fun.
And best of all, no stale fortune cookies for dessert!
The second time you come in, Chef Chang and Kim will greet you by name. You can find them at 5015 Kanan Road, between Agoura Road and Roadside in Agoura Hills. And if you want to call ahead to order take-out, you can reach them at (818) 991-9831.
As their menu boasts, Mandarin Express provides "the one and only original best gourmet Chinese fusion cuisine."
To which we can only add "Nin chi hao" (bon appetit!)