The search for a good Chinese meal

As of right now, I officially give up trying to get a decent Chinese meal in Warsaw!

I love Chinese food and when living in London was spoilt for choice for places to go for an excellent Chinese meal. For some reason, I know not why, it has proved impossible to replicate that experience over here. If you do manage to find a Chinese restaurant the menu is quite different to the UK, the taste is certainly very different and they have a tendency to over complicate things. In the UK if you order, for example, lemon chicken, that’s all you get is a plate with lemon chicken on it and you order the rice, noodles, veg separately. Here you’ll get a plate so full of stuff it’s hard to find the chicken. This is annoying because part of the whole Chinese experience is to order a bunch of different dishes and tuck in to a varied feast. If you do that here you end up with enough food to feed the whole district. As for trying to find what I used to call “crispy pancake duck”, forget about it!

So, it was with a sense of building excitement that we ventured out today to try a large Chinese restaurant on the road between Warsaw and Konstancin called “Mandarin” that has widely publicised itself as being the best Chinese in Warsaw, even with proper imported chefs!

Mandarin

facade

You can see from the side view that this was built as a house and some enterprising restaurateur has slapped a Chinese façade on it and opened for business. Not sure I’d want to live in that house behind it!

Anyway, with a Maserati parked outside the restaurant looked promising but it was to prove a major anti-climax, apart from the price, which was Maserati style. It’s a funny place in a strange location although perhaps in some ways clever because it is almost half way between Warsaw and Konstancin so although neither group have easy access it is a shortish drive from both. It was very busy when we arrived at around 15:00 today but we managed to find a table upstairs. The menu looked good and might even have had the crispy pancake duck (if that was what they called “Beijing duck”) but at 159 PLN we decided not to bother trying. We ordered various starters, a wonton soup and a couple of main dishes with fried rice and noodles.

crackers

First off it took an age to get served but it was fun listening to all the complaints around us from other tables, one of whom decided after half an hour and three different tables to resign and leave. The starters were good, crispy prawns a little tasteless and therefore not worth the 32 zlots but the dim sum and spring rolls were fine. The soup, which we asked to come with the starters arrived with the main course and was a bit wishy-washy. The noodles turned out to be a dish the size of Latvia of which 20% was noodles and the rest was huge chunks of vegetables and scrambled egg. The rice arrived a few minutes after everything else and was plain white rice instead of the fried rice we ordered. The duck “Chinese style” was the usual naff duck breast and so it was only the thin slices of pork in a doodah-whatsit sauce that deserved any real attention. We skipped desert but ordered coffee, which arrived cold.

The average food and poor service were bad enough but when they came with a bill of 310 zlots I nearly fell off my chair. That’s $108, 70 GBP and €75 in hard currency. Not worth half of that my friends! Cross this place off the list, cross Chinese food off the list. Damn! Damn! Damn! When is someone going to get this right?

On the way home we decided to wiggle our way round the back streets between the main road and the river. As usual when we do this we end up passing the electricity/heating plant “Siekierki”, always a wondrous sight. Apparently, Marta had a school trip to this place when she was a lass, I wouldn’t mind having a tour myself.

Vattenfall

We then went on a hunt for Czerniakowskie lake, a stump of water that was possibly at one time a part of a wider Wisła until it silted up and ended up stranded inland. We found it.

jezioro

tales of the riverbank

As you can see, it’s not a lonely and unloved place. With a small beach, boats, fishing huts and swans to feed it was a hive of activity and is apparently a pretty popular destination in good weather, as we had today. Funniest thing was that just as Marta had finished telling me how they often had trouble with the water quality here when a little girl wandered over waving something slippery and shouting “Look Dad, I found a dead fish!”. As if to prove how popular it is, someone even went to the trouble of painting a lot of rules on the side of a derelict building!

regulamin

We had a little walkabout and then, after a fruitless hunt for a “Port Czerniakowskie”, we headed home. Not before I managed to catch the reflection of the chimneys in the lake though.

chimneys

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11 thoughts on “The search for a good Chinese meal

  1. Aahh, poor Scatts. You are just a spoiled Expat :D

    If you were just a normal Pole you would visit the Stadion Dziesieciolecia more often…and find out that THERE is the best Chinese food in Warsaw. (and i am not joking)

    And my second tip is this guy

    http://www.tourfilmfestival.pl/academy/film/film_05-en.html

    contact him, and he will show you where the best Asian shops restaurants are ;) he made a TV series about it.

  2. When I arrived in Poland in 1996, a friend (fellow American) and I decided to try some little Chinese place for the fun of it. This was during the time of the currency revaluation, and the prices were still “old zloty.” Add to it the differences in commas and periods and it’s understandable why we bolted quickly after we arrived. After all, who wants to pay 65 zl for soup? Then again, 65.000 old zloty was quite reasonable. Well, lesson learned.

  3. I notice Zosia eats sushi and uses chopsticks. She seems to have an educated palate for one so young. Good for her. I myself am not a big fan of Chinese food. I must be in the mood to be able to eat it and then after dining always seem to have wished I had not chosen Chinese. There must be a Chinese restaurant almost on every other corner here. Many are opeing as a buffet type.. One price and all you can eat. There are some better restaurants where the cuisine is more sophisticated and probably much better but then the price is much higher. I like egg rolls and egg drop soup though….and a fortune cookie for fun. (when we ask my friend to read hers she always replies “you will get lucky tonight” and we get a big laugh!!!

  4. Hi Scatts:

    What a coincidence! My cousin took me to The Mandarin for an early weekday dinner during my recent visit to Poland. We sat on the enclosed patio (nice ambiance) and had a nice meal. There were few patrons in the restaurant, so we were assured good service. I enjoyed the food (and the very fancy washrooms). I didn’t pick up the cheque so no sticker price shock for me.

  5. Basia, thanks for the balancing comment. Good to know that there are satisfied customers as well. I think a lot of it comes down to expectations, certainly with the food, and I probably had mine set too high.

  6. There’s no problem finding decent Vietnamese food in Warsaw. At all. The entrepreneurial and hard-working Vietnamese, much like Bengalis in the UK, have come up with a variant of their cuisine suited to the raw ingredients of their adopted home and to the tastes of the locals. I call it ‘VietPol’. Carrot, pea, cauliflower, leek… stuff I dare say you’d not find in your chicken ali baba in Ho Chi Minh City, but hell, for 10,50zł for tofu pork, rice and surówka (see what I mean), you can’t argue with that at lunchtime.

    But CHINESE…? No way. Lots of pseudo-chinese decor and names on the menu, but real Chinese – Cantonese, Szechuan, Pekin-style… Zilch. There used to be two (on Smocza and on Andersa). The owner returned to China 10 years ago; interviewed in WBJ he said he quit, selling his business to Vietnamese restaurateur, because Poles couldn’t distinguish Chinese from Vietnamese. The one on Smocza was the nearest I’d ever got to London’s Chinatown.

    I worked in Central London for 16 years just around the corner from Gerrard Street, which was basically wall-to-wall Chinese restaurants from Charing Cross Road all the way to Leicester Square. Our graphic designer was born in Hong Kong, and knew all the restaurants, what was hot and what was not, where the top chefs were currently working. He educated me in the ways of Chinese cuisine.

    Now, if someone knows of a place where the owners and the chefs are from the People’s Republic of China, or from its Special Administrative Zone of Hong Kong, in Warsaw – LET ME KNOW.

    But in the meanwhile, my VietPol pick is the Asia Tasty (formerly the Bao Long Asia Center) on Plac Mirowski. They do a fantastic fried beef filet noodle soup (13 zł), huge, loaded with ginger, garlic, chilli, chives. OH YES!

  7. For Krakowians, there’s a decent (but very tiny) Vietnamese place about halfway up Królewska on the right as you leave the city centre (I think it’s just before Biprostal).
    I never tried the Chinese food but I heard there was a decent place on Starowiślna (I know, there are about four restaurants, and I don’t remember which it was).

  8. Pingback: The search for a good Chinese meal | Warsaw Travel - Culture and Recreation

  9. My friend who is from 13 years in GB is learning now chinese. He promised me to command some food in chinese. I’m waiting 2 years. :D I’ve never been in these type of restaurants. I’ve read to lot about poor cats and dogs and deers Chinese people use to eat! Macabra!

  10. Oriental restaurateurs serving cats and dogs – myth. Consider which is easier – ordering another catering pack of chicken breast for delivery to your wietnamska knajpka or finding, killing and butchering a neighbourhood cat and disposing of the remains.

    This type of twaddle did the rounds in less-enlightened circles of British society some 30 years ago (what do Pakistanis put in their curries) has gone the way of racist comedian Bernard Manning.

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