Sherman's Food Adventures: Mandarin Garden

Mandarin Garden

The Chinese buffet. Never a great place to find good food and really not my cup of tea. Where else can you find fried meat coated in sauces that represent all the colours of the rainbow? Well, call it a moment of weakness, desperation or just plain lack of judgment. We went to a Chinese buffet, in Abbotsford no less. Okay, lemme set up the scenario first. We were at Castle Fun Park which was the reason we were in Abbotsford. We had not been out here since our University days when boredom meant driving out to Abby for Jungle Golf. Well, my son loves mini-golf and that is why we made the trek out. Sure, there is mini-golf at Playland; but we decided to make things interesting.

So afterwards, we were hungry and despite all the other choices of eats, we ended up at Mandarin Garden. The idea of a Chinese buffet was thanks to a Facebook comment from a friend. The didn't say which restaurant; but I took an educated guess. I'm still not sure if this was the right restaurant. Whatever, we were hungry and they had a 50% off the second meal special on Tuesdays. Good enough for me. On my first pass through the buffet, I gotta admit that the food didn't look all that appetizing. That was probably a given due to my aversion to this type of food. So as you can see on my plate, there is a very yellow Chicken Curry, a very red Sweet & Sour Pork, some Fried Rice, a Fried Pork Chop and hiding in the back, a Fried Chicken drumstick. Okay, first things first. The fried rice was laughable and so was the really dry pork chop. However, the curry was not bad except for the precooked chicken tossed in. The sweet 'n sour pork looked like someone just had their jugular sliced wide open; but it did taste okay and the pork was moist. The fried chicken was surprisingly juicy and flavourful.

There was a feeble attempt at Dim Sum with such items as Sui Mai, Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves, Bean Curd Skin Rolls and Black Bean Chicken (?). The only thing that stood out was surprisingly the black bean chicken. Great flavour and moist too. The Black Pepper Beef looked strange as well in large cubes; yet it was tenderized perfectly and had a nice rich flavour. There was regular Chow Mein and also Black Bean Fried Flat Rice Noodles. Well, we really didn't get to try the latter because there was only a few strands and it was never refilled. There were the standard Wonton Soup and Hot & Sour Soup to choose from - both surprising decent. Of course our expectations were tempered. The all-pork wonton was actually of a decent texture while the broth tasted quite good. The hot 'n sour soup was mostly sour and lacking in depth; but in a buffet setting, it was half-decent.

As for dessert, there was a strange assortment of items including Fruit Gelatin, Rice Krispy Squares, Gum Drops, Candy Bar, Fortune Cookies and Jelly Beans??? Well, it's kid-friendly then. I must really give them kudos for a nice selection of hard ice cream. It was actually quite good. Okay, I know my description of the food here is pretty boring and non-descript. You have to understand that there is not much to get excited about. However, the food was actually decent considering everything. It could've been more fresh; but I forgive them since we arrived after 1:30pm and it was a weekday. If the food was refilled and hot, I could see it being better. Honestly, I have not much to complain about since it only cost $8.99 for each adult lunch and the second one was only $4.50 (Tuesday special).

The Good:
- Lots of choice
- Friendly staff
- Cheap

The Bad:
- Although there was some decent items, most were pretty average at best

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