Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Mayflower Chinese Restaurant (Closed)

9639 Dyer St.
El Paso, TX

Mayflower Chinese Restaurant on Dyer Street

The success of Sam's Chinese Restaurant has led the owners to open similar ventures, including Moon Star on the west side and China Star on Dyer Street, both of which are more upscale versions of Sam's. Mayflower Chinese Restaurant opened in June 2007, staying pretty close to the original food, menu, and prices found at Sam's. Mayflower is more downscale than China Star in terms of prices, portion sizes, and menu selection. It has the same high quality, though,that I have found at all of the "Sam's" group of restaurants.

The cook and one of the owners of Mayflower is the brother of one of Sam's owners, so there will naturally be some similarity in the food. I think the menu is almost exactly the same as at Sam's, particularly with the lunch specials and the dishes that are most popular. The owners of Mayflower, though, have shown their own creative streak with some more traditional San Francisco style Chinese food being offered as specials, and some dishes being available that are not listed on the menu. Sam's also offers specials, but I have found the main difference to be that Mayflower does not experience the rush of customers at peak times that would make special orders difficult for the kitchen to prepare.

Mayflower's interior
Mayflower Restaurant has been totally remodeled from the previous restaurant in the same building

Mayflower moved into the building that used to house Chan's Garden, a long time Dyer Street restaurant that had good food at cheap prices. The building was in need of a makeover, and Mayflower completely renovated the building before opening the restaurant. The outside still does not look like much (this is strictly my opinion, of course), but the inside is new, clean, and comfortable (again this is my opinion, but most customers seem to agree).

Mayflower has replaced the buffet that Chan's used to serve with a reasonably priced menu and even cheaper lunch specials. Mayflower advertises that it serves Hunan and Mandarin cuisine, and many of the menu items that correspond with Sam's menu are Hunan style dishes (meaning primarily that they will be prepared as spicy as you want). Most of the items will be very familiar to most people, but based on my experience at Sam's I would say the quality will be a step above that which is served at the majority of the city's other restaurants.

The chef at Mayflower is an experienced Cantonese style cook, but Cantonese dishes on the menu are rather limited. While I enjoy the Hunan style dishes at Sam's, I think the Cantonese food is best, and I would expect the same to be true at Mayflower. The Hunan menu is probably based mostly on customers' requests, with El Paso being known for its love of spicy food. The ginger and other spices used in Cantonese cuisine, though, make it just as interesting when it is prepared correctly, as Mayflower's chef knows how to do.

Steamed fish fillet served Cantonese style
Steamed fish fillet served Cantonese style

Several Cantonese dishes are usually posted on a changeable message board that lists any specials the restaurant offers. I recognized at least a couple out of the five or six items to be Cantonese style dishes, and I think some of the others were appetizers and desserts.

Steamed Fish is a traditional Cantonese style dish popular on the east and west coast, but as far as I know was not served in El Paso until Sam's introduced it. Mayflower seems to post it regularly on the "specials" board, serving a tilapia fillet with ginger and scallions. The fillet used is really less authentic than serving a whole fish, but the owners explain that accommodation has to be made both to what customers request and to the type of fish that is available in El Paso. Steaming brings out the full flavor of the fish, and while I think fillets of white fish are rather bland, the light sauce mixed with ginger make it very enjoyable.

Part of the reason the steamed fish can be served is that fish in general seems to have improved in El Paso over the past few years. The distance needed to bring fish to the city is still the biggest impediment to El Paso having the same kind of Chinese food that is served in San Francisco, but the situation is a lot better than it used to be. Deep frying has traditionally been used to mask the lack of freshness or flavor of fish that has to be transported, but steaming can only be used successfully on fish that is good quality from the outset.

Although the "specials" board does not offer a great selection of authentic Cantonese food, the best thing about Mayflower is that you can walk into the restaurant any time and order any of the specials or menu items without having to make special arrangements ahead of time. Many Cantonese dishes require the restaurant to order many of the ingredients or make a trip to a Chinese market. Mayflower usually has a supply of bok choy or other vegetables, and can usually make several things that I consider to be "Cantonese."

Cantonese style noodle soup
Cantonese style noodle soup

One of my frequent special requests is for Cantonese Style Noodle Soup, and fortunately Mayflower is able to prepare it. The soup came in a large bowl with noodles, white meat chicken, and Chinese vegetables. The broth was the type that takes several hours to cook, and the restaurant keeps enough on hand to allow me to order it. This type of broth makes all the difference between the kind of soup that I think is very satisfying and the typical egg drop and hot and sour soup that can be ordered at just about any restaurant (although I hear that the ones at Mayflower are better than most). The white meat chicken was probably not very authentic but it was quite good (bone-in chicken was apparently slow cooked into the broth that contributed to its Chinese taste). The owner said the vegetable was bok choy, but it was more tender and flavorful than the typical bok choy I see in El Paso.

I tried the Won Ton Soup and thought it was quite good. It confirmed what I heard from other people that the soups at Mayflower are not the run of the mill ones served at many restaurants.

So far Mayflower does not seem to be very well known, although I have always seen a fair number of customers in the restaurant. Being less crowded than other restaurants, though, customers can receive individual attention in making special orders or getting the food prepared the way they like it. The menu offers a lot of good choices, but the specials advertised daily and the ability to make special requests make Mayflower even better.



Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
Smoking: No Smoking

Most Recent Visit
May 27, 2008

Number of Visits: 4

Best Item
Cantonese Style Noodle Soup

Special Ratings
Cantonese Style Noodle Soup:
Steamed Fish: