It’s been more than 33 years since I visited China, but I still remember round tables covered with food, each dish with its own fragrant aroma. Most I didn’t recognize. I’d never eaten sea cucumbers, eel or octopus, nor did I recognize many of the items floating in the soups. But the food was bountiful, tasty and simply prepared, using whatever was available locally from land and sea.
A Lunch Invitation
Recently, my friend Francis Yueh and his wife, May, invited me to join them for lunch at Mandarin House. I’d been there a number of times for the buffet. But this time Francis ordered his favorite dishes cooked to order by Chef Shilly Yu, a renown dessert chef from the Peace Hotel restaurant in Shanghai. Francis inquired as to my preference for various ingredients, so as not to get anything too exotic. As you can see in the photos below, the talented young chef did the rest splendidly.
Too often Chinese cuisine is made more appealing to Americans with special sauces and familiar flavors, but this was authentic and brought back food memories of eating along The Bund next to the Huangpo River. When I walked through the historic Peace Hotel in 1983, it was a long way from being restored to its current elegance. I’m sure I’d not recognize it today or the skyline of Shanghai either. But it’s good to know that the city’s well-prepared, traditional cuisine can still be had today right here in St Louis in the pleasant surroundings of Mandarin House. I told my friends that the next time I go to the restaurant, I’m going to ask the server to bring me what Francis orders.
Mandarin House, 9150 Overland Plaza. Open: Sun-Thu 11a- 9p; Fri-Sat 11a-10p. Lunch Special: Mon-Fri 11a-2:30p. The 430-seat restaurant first opened in 1979.