It may surprise my loyal readers to hear this, but while I love to eat out, I have not actually been to every chain restaurant in Ontario.
In fact, Saturday night was my first trip to the famous Mandarin Chinese buffet. Another secret? As a picky eater, I’m not even a huge Chinese food lover…but I did not go away disappointed.
When we arrived for our girls’ night out, the first thing I noticed was that parking was overflowing from the huge lot onto the street. Obviously it’s a popular place…and thank goodness we had reservations! We were given a very warm greeting, a quick tour of the buffet, and then we were shown to our table in room F (the rooms are named so you can find your way). This location is 18,000 square feet, yet the dining rooms still feel intimate. (Ours had a neat fish tank separating from neighbouring room; other rooms have special themes).
We were offered drinks, and while of course I surprised no one with my choice of Diet Coke, one of the ladies had a glass of wine, and three others tried out the Mojito Wildberry, which received very positive reviews (the fresh mint garnish was particularly noted).
Then it was time to load up on food. Wow. I have honestly never seen such a selection at a buffet (well, maybe except for the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Vegas). And let me assure you, if you’ve been passing by Mandarin because you have a member of your family/group of friends/coworkers who doesn’t like Chinese food, they will do fine here. I managed to fill three plates, and that’s before I went for dessert.
I appreciate how every item is labelled, not only for someone picky like me, but also for the many who have dietary restrictions or allergies and don’t want to risk taking a mystery item. (Though the food has not been analyzed for allergens or nutritional content and caution still needs to be exercised, it’s at least helpful to know the name of each item.)
There were stations for soups, salads, vegetables, meats, and of course all of the traditional Chinese dishes you would expect from Mandarin. My favourite? The prime rib. Two words: Yum my.
The service was excellent. Water glasses were filled before they were even empty, and plates were cleared away just as soon we finished with them. As a blogger, I am sometimes unsure if special attention like this is attributed to the fact that the staff know I’ll be reviewing the place, but it was obviously happening all over the restaurant, and my friends who had been there before confirmed that it is the norm.
Some feedback from the gals who were with me:
- “They made sure our water was full- which is important for me. I hate it when I need a drink and you can’t get the wait staff’s attention to fill your glass.”
- “They make a mean mango salad. In fact the salad bar was pretty impressive.”
- “Their mixed veggies (not sure the official name was) were nicely done. They were al dente, just the right amount of crisp.”
- “I think I really like the wide range of choices best. Some may think the Mandarin only serves Chinese food, however, they have a varied selection of food that aims to satisfy any appetite.”
- “It is family friendly and the staff provide prompt service as they anticipate your every need.”
- “It is refreshing to find a restaurant that can feed every member of your family, offering great choices and unlimited amounts of your favourite food.”
- “I really enjoyed the garlic shrimp and the salmon, and the chocolate mousse cake was also very light and creamy. I would definitely recommend it!”
And the negative? We’re grasping at straws here, but one friend found the chicken balls “doughy”. Gasp!
To top the meal off, we were presented with hot hand towels and individual fortune cookies. A staff member agreed to take our photo, and then offered to print us each a copy…which he presented in little magnetic Mandarin frames:
As we cracked open the fortune cookies, one of our group informed the rest that when reading your fortune, you need to add “…under the sheets” to give it an element of humour (or truth?) Hence, here are some of our fortunes:
“A danger foreseen is half avoided…under the sheets.”
“Fearless courage is the foundation of victory…under the sheets.”
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination…under the sheets.”
“The best year-round temperature is a warm heart and a cool head…under the sheets.” I’ll let you know how that goes. (No, I won’t.)
I would absolutely recommend Mandarin for a girls’ night, but I will be back with my family as well. The prices for kids are very reasonable (kids 5-12 are half price, 4 and under are only $2 for sharing), and there are more than enough options for my daughters’ palates. After our all-inclusive March Break trip, I know kids love the novelty of buffets, and I can see mine finding the atmosphere neat as well.
Disclosure: Although this post was generously sponsored by Mandarin, opinions are, as always, my own.