Place: Chef Lee’s Mandarin House
Location: 2031 N Fremont St. Monterey, CA 93940
Date of visit: 2021 January 8
On Friday, January 8, 2021 I ordered lunch to go from Chef Lee’s Mandarin House in Monterey. I have never been here before because, both from the outside appearances and the website (at least pre-pandemic), it appeared more of a place for in-person dining and I usually am more interested in take-out when I want to eat Chinese food. Just like I wouldn’t go to a nice steak house for takeout, the same goes for Chinese or any other food. Of course, everything is currently takeout so it seemed to be a good time to give it a try. Probably another factor for me not going here before is the online reviews. Their overall rating on Yelp! is not great (3 out of 5). Oddly enough some people seemed to have had a bad experience while others loved it. There are an almost equal amount of 5 star reviews as 1 star reviews; some people say the food was great but bad service and others say the food wasn’t good but the service was great. The reviews are not at all consistent! It is like people are talking about different restaurants. I don’t know what caused this dichotomy and I’m sure my review won’t solve the quandary but as I will describe, I was happy with my meal.
As I stated above, I ordered lunch for takeout. Like many Chinese restaurants they have a lunch menu that offers meals at a cheaper price than dinne
r. I like cheaper! I ordered the Scallop and Chicken w/ Shrimp Rice Plate. This was served with white race unlike some other restaurants that provide fried rice with their lunch and other specials. The rice was perfectly done. The amount of chicken, shrimp, and scallops was appropriate for the price paid ($12.95 before taxes). Overall the main part of the meal (i.e. the proteins and vegetables) was well-prepared and I felt quite tasty. They did not over-do the seasonings which I guess may be a good or bad thing depending on what you want but I found the taste pleasing. The chicken and shrimp were quite good. The scallops were good but not, in my opinion, as good as the chicken and shrimp. To elaborate, they were not under- or over-cooked but they were a bit bland. That said, scallops tend to be that way unless they are drenched in butter or something else so that is a matter of taste.
With takeout it is hard to evaluate service but, as with most of the places I’ve been going to in the area, the food was ready on time and the transactions were pleasant so no complaints. I didn’t take any pictures of the interior because the chairs were on the tables for cleaning and that wouldn’t give a fair impression of what the interior was like but I thought it looked like a nice place to have a sit down meal and once indoor dining opens back up, I would like to check it out.
Overall I was satisfied with my takeout meal. Will I add it to my standard Chinese takeout rotation? I think I will likely get takeout from them again but it probably won’t supplant other places on my regular rotation. This is mostly because I think other places are a better value for takeout. That said, I really do want to give the in-restaurant dining a try when we are able to do that again as I think the ambiance would be nice and they have some dinners (Peking and Chef Lee’s) designed for multiple people, that I assume are served “family style,” that sound really good. I imagine these are Chef Lee’s Mandarin House strength.