I first heard of Old Mandarin Islamic through the Check, Please! Bay Area television show on KQED. You can view that episode on the KQED website or download the free episode from iTunes. Anyways, I finally made my way to San Francisco this past weekend for a taste test and ended up enjoying a feast at Old Mandarin Islamic.
First off, I’ve been to many Chinese-Islamic restaurants in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles. Usually, I opt for the noodles and sesame bread。 However, based on my recent re-discovered fondness for hot pot, we ended up with hot pot and a bunch of other dishes.
As you can see, the Old Mandarin Islamic hot pot is quite different from the Little Sheep Mongolian hot pot. Besides the different cooking vessels, the Old Mandarin Islamic broth was much clearer and lacked the distinct medicinal taste of the broth from Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. Since the Old Mandarin Islamic meat coming out of the broth was not as strongly flavored, the restaurant provided some dipping sauces.
The lamb from Old Mandarin Islamic is as tender and paper thin as the one from Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. However, if you compare the photos, the Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot lamb appears a bit more fatty. Besides the hot pot, we also tried the 生煎包, the cumin beef, and a vinegary napa cabbage dish. I really should have picked up the take-out menu so I could be more precise with the names of the dishes.
The real stand-out dish was the lamb stew. I cannot recall the English or Chinese name, but this stew had a rich, savory sauce with the most tender pieces of bone-on lamb I have ever tasted. I would return to the restaurant for this dish alone. It was that good.