Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
You’ll notice right away that dumplings and savory pancakes are table staples at this petite halal Chinese restaurant in the Sunset. Come hungry for the seriously huge portions of chili oil and Sichuan pepper-bathed crack fish, which can also be made with beef or lamb. And in a neighborhood full of all-you-can-eat hot pot, here you order Beijing-style hot pot with à la carte items, which is a much more relaxing process overall than trying to cram as much into the broth as you feel justifies the price tag. Also, you’ll probably have to wait at least 20 minutes for a table (bring a hoodie), but you won’t feel pressured to rush once you’re seated.
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Dishes with cumin that impart a warming but not hot sensation are the specialties of the house. One we like is the cumin beef, a stir-fry with bell peppers, onions, crinkle-cut carrot slices, and water chestnuts. It’s a potent dish with a totally dry preparation that’ll clear your sinuses in the best way.
If you are the kind of person who can just dive face first into a vat of boiling hot red chilis without flinching, this family-sized dish is for you.The steamed rock cod is immersed in red chili oil and dried Sichuan peppers, with sesame seeds on top. The “crack” preparation is also available with lamb and beef, but the fish is the best way to go.
Beijing Hot Pot
One distinct advantage of eating at Old Mandarin Islamic rather than ordering takeout or delivery is that you can order Beijing hot pot. Instead of the all-you-can-eat model that’s typical for hot pot places in San Francisco, thinly sliced meats, veggies, and other items you want to toss in the boil are ordered individually. Since it’s more modest and way less wasteful to order hot pot that way, you might as well go ahead and order some dumplings or pancakes, too.
Hot & Sour Soup
You can find this soup on countless menus at Chinese restaurants in the city, but the version here actually delivers on the hot and sour promise. It’s spicy and tart enough to make you purse your lips in a little ooh, which is the combo we’re always wanting to find.
Beijing Beef Pancake
This golden pancake is shaped like a giant triangle and cut into six totally uneven pieces for the table to fight over (hopefully in a friendly way). Stuffed with beef and deep fried until bubbly, it could easily be the main event in the meal.
West Lake Lamb Dumplings
All the lamb dishes are halal and the meat tastes lean. The best way to try it is to order the simply pinched and boiled West Lake lamb dumplings, which come in an order of 10.
Pork isn’t a particular focal point on the menu, but if you’re at a table and craving pot stickers, they’re worth adding to your order. The restaurant’s version is particularly plump with meat and sits on golden bottoms.
Pan-Fried Seafood Bun
Ten fat buns are filled with shrimp, fish, crab, and plenty of chopped mushrooms that bind it all together. They're pan-fried until the bottoms have a lacey crispiness, and are pulled off the heat before they get too dark. Get this.
Egg Omelette Surfaced Beef
One of the chef’s specials is a large and fluffy scrambled egg omelette that’s worthy of putting at the center of the table. It’s stuffed with small pieces of beef and carrots and surrounded by a light and comforting beef and mushroom broth. Order a side of white rice to go with it.