About a month or so ago, I got an invite from some of the coolest webmasters I know to take part in a multi-blog challenge. The challenge was to go to our local malls and test the Chinese cuisine and post it here on our little slices of the internet. Of course, I am beyond flattered to be included in this project and while many don’t take this to be a challenge, I do. I hate eating alone in public places and hate eating in food courts even more.
This is my mall. There are many others like it but this is mine. The name is Haynes, like the underwear. That’s all you need to know about it. Well, besides the fact that if you were to travel back to 1984, the only real difference would be a lack of cellphone stores and toy helicopter kiosks. Other than that, Haynes mall is one giant time capsule.
I make every effort in life to avoid going to the mall. From the hundreds of similar stores to the confusion on walking traffic patterns, I can honestly go my whole life without ever stepping foot in a mall again. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I disdain the mall so bad but if I was to guess, it might be the time when I was eleven and saw an old lady with dementia pull down her pants in a Walden Books. Yeah, that might have something to do with it.
Regardless of scars, this challenge needed to be met so with my enlisted help of a co-worker, we set off to Haynes Mall to eat exotic dishes from the Orient while still in a football throw distance from both Belk and Macy’s. Like I said, I hate to eat alone in a public place.
The food court at Haynes mall has three Asian style restaurants which cover China, Japan and Thailand. Since there were two of us, I decided that we try a different restaurant to compare dishes. I figured it would put some depth into the post or at least be more than, “I got rice and chicken. Tasted like rice and chicken.”.
Right away we wrote off the Japanese place called Saporosan. I’m kidding, I don’t remember what the fuck it was called. All I know is I watched the guy giving out samples eat every other one. While amusing, I couldn’t help but wonder what atrocities where happening in the kitchen if their marketing guy could answer what really was eating Gilbert Grape. (I know that might not make sense but…work with me.)
So that left two place; ThaiMax and Mandarin Express. I went with ThaiMax because the green and white bright colors attracted me. I’m serious, I am a sucker for contemporary looking food joints. If it has stainless steel and solid bright colors, most likely I will buy something from you. My partner decided to stick to the more traditional food court Chinese food and went to Mandarin Express.
We will start with my choice from ThaiMax. (I had the theme to Title Max in my head all day after this adventure)
I chose the spice chicken/Teriyaki Thai chicken with steamed vegetables and basil rice all for $8.00. And it was pretty damn awesome. In fact, I was so impressed with this mall food court dish I think I told my coworker if I wasn’t in a mall and she wasn’t present I would take off my shirt and paint murals of horses to the music Schubert out of pure food inspiration. She said nothing. In fact, her face was a bit contorted and rightly so. I saw what she got from…
..Mandarin Express. Good lord, the staple of modern Chinese food in any mall of America. It looks inviting and smells alluring but what my coworker got was nothing less than terrifying.
So apparently this is sweet and sour chicken with fried rice and steamed vegetables. I am guessing that what it was supposed to be. But judging the twenty-two year old guy on the frier named Jeff, he may have had the cookbook upside-down. And backwards.
Where do I begin? Let’s start with the sweet and sour chicken. First off, there was no visible sign chicken was ever there. It was as if they fried refried…fried. Just a big ol’ ball of fried gob dipped in sweet and sour sauce. Everytime I took a bite, it literally fought me from chewing it completely. I don’t know what they fried in there but I am hoping it doesn’t end up being a channel 14 exclusive story.
What about the vegetables, you ask? They couldn’t even steam vegetables right but instead cooked them in some clear glop. I can take a lot of things but what I can’t take is clear glop. For obvious reasons. Also, they were as flaccid as a dude on a three-day whiskey bender. (This post is headed south fast, no?)
I felt terrible she was stuck with such a tragic lunch. Seriously, Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods would probably take issue with Mandarin Express. I demanded we trade and she ate the awesome TaiMax food and I ate shitty fried rice that was fucked up too. I couldn’t believe it! I swear, I think they get fried rice from a can.
So, in conclusion, it was a nice break from the office with tons of people watching and I was able to return some pants to Banana Republic. Since Banana Republics live in malls, I guess I am forced to venture in once in a while. This was a great excuse. And at leaset I was able to eat in the basking glow of this amazing stained glass art.
ThaiMax: The spicy chicken/Terriyaki Thai with steamed veggies and basil rice was pretty damn awesome. Ingredients were fresh, the dude serving gave me a ton and I found no hairs in my food. All around I give it an A. If I was about to be executed for running over Michael Bay with a dump truck and this was my last meal, I would not protest. I wasn’t expecting mall food court food to be like that. You’ve come a long way baby.
Mandarin Express: The fried nuggets in sweet and sour sauce, veggies covered in duck sperm with canned fried rice, I would say you are a disgrace to Chinese food. I know this is an American version of Chinese food but come on, you got to put some effort into it. I had to work the rest of the day close to the community defibrillator. Just in case. I grade it a G for “GOOD GOD WHAT THE FUCK?”
That is my adventure and want to thank Matt and Brian for the awesome joint project idea! You are all awesome. Please now check out the other peeps who have taken part in this journey. Click their pics and get whisked away to better reviews.
“toy helicopter kiosks” haha yeah what’s up with these things? How many helicopters are they actually selling to keep these things in business? It’s funny. You know I’ve never really had any problem eating alone in public, in fact, I kind of enjoy it typically as the quiet and moments of self-reflection and introspection are nice, esp. now as a parent a little quiet time alone is a treasure! haha.. but I did recently have an awkward one. I went into PF Chang’s a fancier sitdown Asian place, usually for dates or business meetings, I just went because I never get a chance to otherwise and was en route somewhere and wanted to treat myself. Instead of requesting that they sit me in the bar so I could eat in relative peace I allowed them to sit me in the main dining area. That did feel odd like eyes were on me from all around. The waiter even asked if I was there for a special occasion.LOL. I ate faster than The Flash.
Sorry the mall is a dark spot for you! haha. Here in the relatively boring Midwest malls used to hold an allure and magic all their own which has sadly faded. But when I first got my license the freedom to eat pretzels from Auntie Ann’s and walk around and people watch felt like a big deal! Glad you survived that faux chicken
Excellent post Will. I especially love the aspect of your mall that’s like a time warp. That’s the most special thing about malls and libraries..some haven’t changed in 40 years lol. Man o man that stained glass mural kicks ass!
That old lady pulling her pants down – OMG definitely scar-worthy.
You sound mall phobic and I respect that given your Walden Books experience, but there’s something so magical to me about malls stuck in 80’s/90’s decor. Just saying I would love an in depth post exploring your mall, but wouldn’t want to trigger any bad memories!
Anyway, awesome post and I appreciate the stained glass photo!
Well done – as always! 🙂 I too would have picked the thai food based on decor alone …good call
This was hilarious, especially whatever that was about Gilbert Grape. No, it didn’t make sense, but I’m working with you.
I’m glad you got your ThaiBack with ThaiMax, but damn, man, it sounds like y’all need to report Mandarin Express to somebody…but who? The mall management? The health department? Chairman Mao? The Mandarin? Hell, somebody needs to be made aware of what’s going on over there. In any case, I’m glad it didn’t kill you.