Yesterday was my weekly Ladies Lunch with Lauren day, and we opted to go to China Mama on Spring Mountain and Jones, a spot initially recommended by another lovely lady and fanatical foodie, Audrey Chin, who you may recall as the birthday girl in the Wayne's Sushi review. Audrey and her entire family are bigger foodies than any others I know (if you remember Chin's restaurant in the Fashion Show mall no further explanation is needed) so we always write down every place they tell us about and make a point of going as soon as possible. Audrey is the one who told me about Raku, a restaurant I consider to embody the Frugal Foodie philosophy more than any other, so needless to say China Mama is a very good restaurant. It has been considered one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in America, yet some dishes are certainly better than others.
A personal favorite, and also a favorite of Ian's and Lauren's, is the crispy beef, pictured above. The tender, scrumptious, and of course crispy morsels taste nutty and are beautifully caramelized with a sweet soy glaze. The addition of shredded carrots and thinly sliced celery truly adds to dish and make it all the more irresistible. Lauren and I also always get the scallion pancake, pictured below. This is a concoction best described as chewy layered dough studded with scallions that has been pan fried on the outside to give it a crispy crunch. Not everyone is a huge fan, as it is very simple and not pungent with flavor. In my opinion, however, the subtle taste makes it all the better, and a dab of soy sauce and vinegar gives it the little kick you're looking for. We also had the eggplant, listed under the vegetable category, to which we added broccoli for a textural difference and healthful component. The eggplant on it's own is delicious, but is pretty much saturated with oil (let's face it, most good eggplant dishes are) so the broccoli makes it a bit less heavy. All that oil really contributes to the blindingly glossy finish of the dish (as shown below), and as we all know, you eat with your eyes first. You probably shouldn't finish the plate, but as far as taste you won't be dissatisfied.
Another dish I've had several times here but that we didn't get today are the juicy pork buns, which aren't buns at all but rather dumplings stuffed with pork and broth. These have been applauded by food critics around Vegas, but in my opinion are over rated. If you are interested in the magic contained within such a concoction you have to go to Din Tai Fung on your next drive to or from LA. This restaurant is located in Arcadia and has the real deal. Their dumplings are constructed much better than those at China Mama, completely showing off the expertise of the cooks, and will give new meaning to the word dumpling. Once you go Fung, you'll never go back.
I apologize for not having the prices of the dishes we ordered, and I can't find them online, but our meal for two was $29 with a soda, so every item is roughly around $10. You can certainly get out of there for $20 for two people, however, and there were plenty of leftovers, even with two hungry mamas.
Today's Food Rating: 8
Would I go back?: FORTUNE COOKIE SAYS YES