Sometimes the best part of going someplace new is that it takes you on an unexpected adventure. Such is the case at Mandarin Kitchen. Located on a desolate stretch of Lyndale in Bloomington, Mandarin serves food so authentic, it could easily be located in Chinatown. The ethereal things of which I speak are the dim sum (served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends only), and if the lines are any indication of the experience that waits inside, this place might be better than the Wild Thing at Valleyfair.
While dining, you are seated at large round communal tables with lazy Susans in the center. After the perfunctory quasi-ceremonial tea, carts of steamed goodies in tiny tin baskets are proffered, mostly in Chinese. You can always ask to have a look first, but I was fortunate enough to have some friendly neighbors who, between bites of duck feet, helped decipher the dishes. My favorites were shrimp and chive dumplings, delicate as gossamer and made sparkly with a swirl through the red chili–black bean paste and the soy condiments offered; glorious sticky rice that came wrapped in a lotus leaf like a gift from Buddha; tender little pork shu mai with ginger and scallion; and some gutsy tripe that was soft as velvet. If those don’t suit your fancy, there are myriad other things to try. I spent less than $20 and the tip is included in the price. Call it holistic dining: Know not where you are going, end up where you need to be.
8766 Lyndale Ave. S., Bloomington, 952-884-5356