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A view of the restaurant when it had previous owners

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--Lotus Mandarin
Location: 5928 N.W. 38th St., Oklahoma City, OK (Warr Acres)
Date of Review: Jun. 2012
Additional Review: Aug. 2013
Restaurant Status: Closed

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 a change of ownership and cooks since the early 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
Small serving of 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.

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 remember 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 (mushrooms are used instead), but I like everything else about it (including the price, since you can order a small plate if you are not very hungry).

Twice cooked pork
Small serving of twice cooked pork

Twice Cooked Pork is really the second dish I have ordered at Lotus Mandarin that makes me classify it as an "authentic" Sichuan style restaurant. This dish comes with a plum sauce that when done right is one of my favorites. The one here was sweet, but not as sweet as many others I have tried. It also had a sour component that I thought was very good. The flavor was top notch, and I thought the dish was excellent. The nappa cabbage and other vegetables were also very good, and like the other dishes here I thought I got excellent and authentic Chinese food for a lower price than at just about any other restaurant in the city that serves items of similar quality.

Chicken Cheng Tu Style at Lotus Mandarin
Chicken Cheng Tu Style

For chicken dishes the Chicken Cheng Tu Style is a good choice. 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.

Kung po chicken
Small serving of kung po chicken

The Kung Po Chicken was kind of mixed in the way I would rate it. The sauce was good, and I thought it had a very good blend of flavors. It had a sweetness to it but it was not too much. The vegetables included celery and bamboo shoots, which I liked. It was missing the whole dried red peppers that most restaurants serve with this dish. The chicken was good, but the dish was not to the point that I would say this is one of the best items at the restaurant. I still think Dot Wo on Portland or in Edmond has the best kung pao chicken in town.

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.

Most dinners are offered in a smaller portion, and this offers a very 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. I find that the owner is very helpful in directing me to the authentic dishes.

In contrast to the early Lotus Mandarin, almost everything cooked by the current owners has been rather low on the spice scale for Sichuan restaurants. I am sure this can be remedied by adding chile from the jars or asking them to add it in the kitchen, and I am usually pleased enough with the flavor that I do not need it to be more spicy. Still, though, this is to let readers know that if you want the food to be spicy here you have to ask for it.

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. More and more I am also appreciating the fact that I can eat here at a very modest price.



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
May 31, 2012

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Szechuan Shredded Pork, Twice Cooked Pork, Hot and Sour Soup

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