Excellent Japanese, Chinese, and Thai Food Can Be Found at This Southern New Jersey BYOB
Mandarin Oriental in Mullica Hill is part of the Mandarin Group of six restaurants throughout southern New Jersey. As with many Asian restaurants in the Jersey suburbs, Mandarin Oriental offers a mixture of Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisines, with a sushi bar to complement its menu of hot appetizers and entrees. While the restaurant succeeds better with some dishes than others, Mandarin Oriental is a fine choice for Asian food in the area, with great service in an attractive atmosphere to enhance your dining experience.
Located in the Shop Rite shopping complex in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, Mandarin Oriental at first glance appears to be nothing more than a typical strip-mall Chinese take-out restaurant. Yet step inside and the atmosphere immediately tells you otherwise. With dark wood tables and accents, light-colored walls and simple Asian-themed decorations, the restaurant could easily be at home in nearby Philadelphia next to any of the city’s finer Japanese restaurants. Service is always prompt and welcoming, and if you bring your own wine to this BYOB, they will quickly supply wine glasses and an ice bucket to chill the bottle, if necessary.
Mandarin Oriental’s menu is quite extensive, broken into several sections including seasonal/daily specials, Japanese sushi and hot items, and Chinese/Thai/other Asian options. Most Japanese entrees come with miso soup and/or green salad with ginger dressing, but it is well worth trying some of Mandarin’s excellent appetizers as well. The pan-fried Gyoza dumplings, available either vegetarian or with pork filling, are excellent. Crispy yet still tender and juicy, they come in an order of 6 pieces which is great for sharing. Also very good are the Thai-style spring rolls. Lighter and smaller in style than Chinese egg rolls, these are crunchy and nicely fried without being oily. Specialty sushi rolls are also great for sharing, and Mandarin Oriental’s unique offerings include the “Godzilla Roll” (spicy tuna with jumbo shrimp tempura) and a nice version of a Green Dragon Roll (eel roll topped with avocado and tobiko.)
For Japanese entrees, Mandarin Oriental offers most of the traditional favorites found in American Japanese restaurants. Udon noodle bowls, Teriyaki, Tempura, and Chicken or Pork Katsu are all available. Although I am not normally a big tempura fan, their Chicken Tempura is notably worth trying. Long strips of tender chicken breast are fried and again, manage to be very crispy while not at all greasy. Sashimi and sushi is available a la carte or in standard entree assortments for one or two. In general I find their sushi quality to be acceptable, if not particularly the best that I’ve had. Portion sizes are generous, but the fish it is lacking that melt-in-your-mouth quality that the absolute best and freshest sushi tends to have. That said, I do often order their Chirashi or Sashimi assortment for one to satisfy my craving for sushi out here in rural southern New Jersey.
Where Mandarin Oriental often excels the most is with their cooked Chinese and Thai entrees. An evening special of Sea Bass in Black Bean Sauce was outstanding, delicately seasoned and perfectly cooked, and served with crispy fresh, seasonal vegetables. Also good is their version of Pad Thai, prepared with either shrimp or chicken and rich with peanuts, scallions, Thai Basil and bean sprouts. I definitely intend to sample more of their cooked specialties as they offer numerous Thai curries such as Red and Penang, along with all of the standard Chinese favorites like Lo Mein, Moo Shu and Cashew Chicken.
An extensive dinner for two of several appetizers, two entrees, and a shared dessert can easily be enjoyed for under $50 at Mandarin Oriental. Most cooked entrees are under $15 and sushi entrees under $19 based on current menu prices. Lunch special “Bento Boxes” are offered on weekdays, almost all under $10. Take out service is also available. Overall, Mandarin Oriental is a great choice in the Mullica Hill area for satisfying your craving for Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisine. While perhaps not quite up to the quality of the finest Asian restaurants in nearby Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it is a more than acceptable option for those who don’t want to trek into the big city to get a sushi or Thai food fix. Hot appetizers and entrees in particular shine on their menu, and the variety of items available make it a great place for a group to enjoy, with something sure to please every diner.
This review was originally published February 1, 2011 at the Yahoo! Contributors Network.