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A Review of Mandarin Restaurant in Kingston, Ontario

Simon Lam loves to eat. Although he isn't a trained chef, he sure knows what good food tastes like.

Fried chicken wings, black pepper steak, curry chicken, torpedo shrimp and garlic broccoli are among the offerings at Mandarin.

Fried chicken wings, black pepper steak, curry chicken, torpedo shrimp and garlic broccoli are among the offerings at Mandarin.

A Very Good Meal

Mandarin is a fairly young restaurant as far as Kingston is concerned. It opened in 2015 and has since then become one of the most popular Chinese buffets in the Kingston region. The interior space is bright, colourful and very pleasant. Each dining room has a special theme. Ours was fish-themed and featured an aquarium, fish and bubble design motifs. Their buffet has over 100 items, including a variety of soups and salads, Chinese entrees, sushi, dumplings (during Chinese New Year), desserts, and ice cream. My favourite dishes were the black pepper steak, fried chicken wings, and Kung Pao chicken. I also love their flan and fresh fruits. At $18.99 for lunch, it was a reasonable price to pay for all the food that I had. The service was prompt and efficient. Their washrooms were clean and well-stocked. Although their recent health inspection results weren't available, they have passed their inspections in previous years. I would highly recommend Mandarin's lunch buffet.

Koi swimming in Mandarin's entrance aquarium

Koi swimming in Mandarin's entrance aquarium

A Bit of History

Mandarin started out as a small, à-la-carte restaurant in Brampton, Ontario in 1979. It was founded by James Chiu, George Chiu, Diana Chiu and K.C. Chang. They strove to serve the freshest cuisine and provide the best customer service around. This strategy eventually won over many customers, and they became increasingly popular for their food and service. In 1986, in response to long lines of eager diners, they transformed into their current buffet-style restaurant. Now, they have 27 locations in southern Ontario. The Kingston location opened in 2015. Their buffets have won a number of awards over the years.

We were seated in the "fish" dining room.

We were seated in the "fish" dining room.

The Atmosphere

When you first enter the Mandarin, you will see koi swimming in the open-floor aquarium, which is a rather special sight. The host will then take you into one of their multiple dining rooms. Each room has a special theme. One is called the "fish" room, while another one is called the "flower" room. When we went for lunch during Chinese New Year, we were seated in the "fish" room.

There were two aquariums at the entrance of the room, and they were both lovely. The walls are white and are divided by black trim. The black trim divides the wall into panels. Each panel has numerous gray or silver circles, representing bubbles I presume. There was a beautiful black and red mural on the wall behind us with decorative white lights in the shape of fish.

The blue and black upholstered chairs added some colour to the room. Light green table clothes topped the tables. For Chinese New Year, they also hung plenty of red lanterns from the ceiling. Overall, the atmosphere was pleasant, relaxed and bright.

The Buffet

The buffet is in the centre of the restaurant just before the dining rooms. The Mandarin boasts that they have over 100 items on their buffet. They have a salad and soup bar on one end. Next are the two entrée buffets. Their sushi bar is located on the other end of the appetizer bars. They also have a station for grilled meats and special items (dumplings). Finally, they have two dessert bars and an ice cream bar.

The Price

I have gone to the Mandarin a few times on non-holidays. Their price for lunch used to be $16.99. However, on Chinese New Year, it was $18.99. It seems like a lot, but for that price, you get everything from appetizers and entrées to desserts.

Caesar salad from Mandarin's salad bar

Caesar salad from Mandarin's salad bar

The Salad Bar

I started my meal with something from the salad bar. I'm not a big fan of soup, so I didn't get anything from the soup bar. However, my friends did, and they seemed to enjoy their soups. I got a small serving of Caesar salad. There wasn't much in the big salad bowl when I got there. This probably meant that it had been sitting out for a while. The Caesar salad mainly consisted of Romaine lettuce, croutons, and creamy dressing. To me, the lettuce looked a bit wilted. Taste-wise, it was just okay. I wasn't absolutely thrilled with it.

My First Plate

I then dove right into the heart of the buffet—the entrees. I picked up some vegetable fried rice, chow mien, shrimp with mixed vegetables, beef and broccoli and Kung Pao chicken. Everything tasted pretty good. I especially liked the Kung Pao chicken—it was scrumptious.

My Second Plate

On my second trip to the entrée buffet, I got fried chicken wings, torpedo shrimp (breaded shrimp), black pepper steak, chicken thighs with soy sauce (I believe), curry chicken, garlic broccoli and fried fish fillet. Once again, I wasn't disappointed in the quality of the food. I really enjoyed the black pepper steak and the chicken wings. I thought those were the best. The chicken thighs were a bit dry. That was my only criticism of the entrée buffet.

The Sushi

They had about eight plates of sushi on their sushi bar. I only tried two pieces of sushi, as I was getting full and wanted to save some room in my belly for dessert. I tried the California roll and one with shrimp on top that I didn't know the name of. Overall, the sushi was alright. There was nothing special about it. The pieces I tried were just slightly on the dry side.

The Dessert

I grabbed myself a big plate for dessert because that is my favourite part of the meal. I loaded my plate with cantaloupe, honeydew melon, a piece of tiramisu cake, bread pudding and flan. They were all very tasty. By far, my favourite was the flan. It was light, sweet and very satisfying.

The Service

The server we had was very pleasant and very nice. She got our water and drink orders promptly. At a buffet, good service means the servers take away your finished and dirty dishes right away and refill your water and drinks. Our server was very good at both. I thought she was very efficient and timely.

Also unique to the Mandarin is the warm towel service. At the beginning of your meal, you are offered a warm towel. And at the end of your meal, you are again offered a warm towel. It adds a nice touch of class.

Mandarin's classy washrooms

Mandarin's classy washrooms

The Washroom

The state of a restaurant's washroom is an indicator of its hygiene and overall upkeep. I was very impressed with Mandarin's washroom. They have beautiful dark tiles on the walls and floors. There is also some marble-like work in there, which was very classy. Overall, it was very clean. The soap and paper towels were fully stocked. I was super pleased with their washroom.

Know Before You Go

The local Public Health Unit has a website that shows the results of recent health inspections of food facilities in the Kingston area. I checked there to see how the Mandarin did on their last inspection, but the results of the inspections were not shown. I have looked at their results in previous years, and they passed those. They have a pretty good record. You can check the link above for updates.