The only thing better than skipping meal preparation and going out for dinner is going out for dinner to some place that has food that will please everyone in my family. I don’t think I have ever cooked a meal that garnered praise and appreciation from all family members. My husband will smile and eat whatever I make and my oldest son knows better than to make any disparaging remarks, but the younger three haven’t honed that skill yet. One, two or all three of them complain about whatever I make, and when we go out to eat we run into the same problem. One really loves pizza, and the other two change their minds on a fairly regular basis. We had a chance to visit Mandarin in London, Ontario for the first time, and it is the perfect solution to this problem because it has something for everyone in our family.
Mandarin was founded as a small Á-la-carte restaurant in Brampton in 1979 by James Chiu, George Chiu, Diana Chiu, and K.C. Chang. Their top priority was to ensure customer satisfaction by providing the freshest food and the best service.
In 1986, they changed their restaurant to buffet style to accommodate the long line ups of customers waiting to try their much talked about cuisine. They continuously maintained their commitment to customer satisfaction. This commitment is the basis of the company’s mission statement: “Every customer must feel welcomed as soon as they arrive. Every customer must be happy and smiling when they leave”.
Mandarin has grown to over 20 locations across southwestern Ontario. Each location is owned and operated by Front and Kitchen Managing Partners who have been promoted from within the organization. All of the Managing Partners share the same goal of customer satisfaction that drove the four founding partners. Each location’s award-winning buffet has an extensive soup and salad bar, grill tables, a prime rib counter, a sushi corner, and a variety of hot foods showcasing the best in Chinese Canadian fare. An array of desserts and an ice cream sundae bar offer the perfect end to the meal. Take-out and delivery are also available at every location.
Upon arriving at Mandarin, we were greeted right away and introduced by name to the hostess and the manager. The hostess then gave us a tour of the buffet, explaining what is available, what is new and even what she personally recommends. She showed us where to find the washrooms and then lead us to our table where she pulled out each chair for us. I can’t remember the last time someone pulled out a chair for me and it didn’t go unnoticed.
Our server arrived right after we were seated. He was a very personable young man (pictured below, bottom left) and he was patient while my children had difficulty deciding what to drink. He heard that Avery likes raspberry lemonade and offered to make one special just for her. He brought Griffin a special cup with a lid and straw so that we didn’t end up with any spills during our meal and he made sure to keep our glasses full throughout our meal.
The family at the table next to us was celebrating a birthday. My server was their server as well and he brought out a slice of cake and got the whole family to sing Happy Birthday, including a less than enthusiastic pre-teen who was determined not to enjoy herself. He joked with her and got her to enjoy the moment. That is great customer service!
The food selection at Mandarin is incredible. A well stocked salad bar includes green salads and dressings, pasta salads, potato salads, fresh vegetables and salad toppings. My son was thrilled to find croissants and chinese noodles and my daughter was pleased to find deviled eggs. I tried a little bit of several of the salads and they were all delicious.
For the main course we could choose from chinese food, a sushi bar, pizza, grilled chicken or steak, prime rib, mashed potatoes and rice. I tried to taste as much as possible and I can say that I enjoyed everything but the sushi. It was my first time trying sushi and it is not for me, although I’m sure that has nothing to do with the quality and everything to do with my preferences. The grilled steak was tender and juicy and everything I tried off of the chinese buffet was delicious. The kids had fun going back to try new things, especially off of the dessert bar! There was an ice cream station and frozen yogurt as well as all kinds of cakes and squares and cookies.
Griffin was impressed by the huge fish tanks in our dining room (pictured above) and the kids also discovered a fish pond at the front of the restaurant. Upon leaving Mandarin, my ten year old announced that it was the best restaurant he had ever eaten at. I guess that means we will be returning! I would have anyway because it was a delicious meal with excellent service, and everyone found something that they liked.