Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Important Notice:
An update of this review can be found at .

Lotus Mandarin Restaurant (Closed)

5928 N.W. 38th St.
Oklahoma City, OK

Lotus Mandarin Restaurant in Warr Acres

It may be hard for me to be objective about the Lotus Mandarin. When I began to explore the world of Chinese food in the early 1980's Lotus Mandarin, tucked in a strip shopping center in Warr Acres, became one of my favorite hangouts. At the time I was trying to get relief from the allergies I had developed while growing up in Oklahoma by eating spicy Chinese food, since it seemed that no Mexican restaurant dared serve authentic chiles to the state's uninitiated clientele.

Lotus Mandarin was one of the few Chinese places that got close to the spiciness level I was seeking, but I also came to appreciate the flavors being offered. One of my favorites was the Szechuan sauce that had so much of my respect and admiration that I still use it as a benchmark for measuring others.

Even though Lotus Mandarin has gone through changes of ownership and cooks over the years, it remains almost the same as I remember it. It even uses the same Corningware plates that I thought helped preserve the temperature of some of my favorite dishes. It offers a buffet (that I do not remember being served in the 1980's), but the extensive menu is just about the same as it always has been.

Szechuan shredded pork
Szechuan shredded pork

The Szechuan sauce is still great, and can be served with chicken or pork. The Szechuan Shredded Pork still has the delicious sweet and fiery sauce, shredded bamboo shoots, and other vegetables in just the right balance and offsetting flavors to make this as much a work of culinary art as just something to eat. If Lotus Mandarin has one dish that makes it worth a visit, I think this is it. I know other restaurants have better Szechuan style food, but I have not found any that I think serve a superior version of this particular dish.

Although not stated on the menu, the shredded pork can be modified to Szechuan Chicken with the same sauce and vegetables. Although the garlic flavored sauce was made to go with pork, the chicken has a good flavor as well. Those who want the real Szechuan style dish should probably order the pork, but sometimes I think eating chicken is more healthy.

One word of caution, though, is that the cooks by default will make the Szechuan sauce quite sweet unless the customer requests otherwise. When I have requested that the Szechuan chicken or pork be cooked "Chinese style," it had all the same ingredients but without the almost overly sweet component to the sauce that is served by default. I was told the non-sweet version is the way Chinese cooks would make it for themselves, and I thought the flavor approached the ones found in restaurants that specialize in Sichuanese cuisine. Looking back, it may have been a more "sweet" version that I remeber from the 1980's (and which is still served unless otherwise requested), but the "authentic" version seemed to give more of the type of flavor I would expect from traditional Chinese food.

I do think the Szechuan shredded pork has changed from the original version by no longer including strips of black fungus, and I think this would make the current version better, but I like everything else about it (including the price, since you can order a small plate if you are not very hungry).

Chicken Cheng Tu Style at Lotus Mandarin
Chicken Cheng Tu Style

For chicken dishes the Chicken Cheng Tu Style is a good alternative. The menu describes this as an "exotic dish for Chinese food lovers." The vegetables (broccoli, snow peas, and mushrooms) did not seem very exotic to me, but the sauce was good and I liked the fact that it had a good quantity of vegetables. Although this dish originated in the Szechuan region of China, I would say it did not quite bring across the flavor I found in the Szechuan shredded chicken dish.

Hot and sour soup
Lotus Mandarin's hot and sour soup is one of the best in OKC

The Hot and Sour Soup is worth the nominal extra charge (but it comes free with lunch specials). It would be in the running for my favorite in OKC except for the fact that it is pre-made with MSG. Most of the time the soup is filled with the requisite strips of pork, black fungus, and bamboo shoots. The MSG has never actually given me a reaction, it is just the idea that I could be affected by the MSG that keeps me from ordering the soup on occasion.

The Sizzling Rice Soup was about average.

For a while Lotus Mandarin stopped offering most dinners in a smaller portion, but this is now back on the Imenu, so I believe the restaurant offers a good value without getting the buffet (food in the buffet has MSG, so I would not order it anyway).

Most dishes seem to be "Americanized" by default, such as the Szechuan sauce coming with added sugar, but some of the food can be made "Chinese style" by request. Like all Chinese restaurants, I think the only thing the owners want is for customers to be sure they really want the food Chinese style before ordering it that way. This includes ordering it spicy (with me, though, it never seems to be as spicy as I would like).

Forget the divey appearance (this restaurant is a great example of post-WW II strip shopping center Oklahoma modern). The good food and extremely attentive service will more than make up for it.

I mainly avoid restaurants that serve American style Chinese food, but Lotus Mandarin is one where I can find things that taste authentic, or at least that are to my liking (and I suppose this is all that really counts).

Go to Index


Main Index



Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily except Sat. lunch
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Buffet: Lunch Sun.-Fri.

Most Recent Visit
Dec. 12, 2010

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Szechuan Shredded Pork, Hot and Sour Soup

Special Ratings
Szechuan Shredded Pork:
Chicken Cheng Tu Style:
Sizzling Rice Soup:
Hot and Sour Soup: