Monday, March 12, 2007

Mandaloun, Redwood City

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you probably know by now that there are a few sure-fire ways to entice me into a restaurant: fried-to-order donuts, beignets and churros.

And so it was that we ended up dining at Mandaloun on Friday night. Churros with chocolate-espresso dipping sauce for dessert? Count me in.

Since I was checking the online menu on Friday, by the time we walked through the Mediterranean restaurant's doors that evening, I already knew what I was going to order. Sadly, Mandaloun's online and real-time menus weren't in sync. Neither were the prices: online, the small plates were listed at 3 for $15; they have since been upped to $18. (By the way, I see that today, the site is updated to show the price increase ... and a more current menu!)

We decided to share just one small plate: polenta with a yummy bolognese sauce, topped with farmer's cheese. Although we both had really hoped to order the salt cod and fries starter that we had heard such good things about, the polenta dish more than satisfied us.

Next up were our entrees: Jon opted for the flat iron steak, served with fries; I went with the rabbit. My plate also included potato puree (basically mashed potatoes), onions and apples in a mustard-y broth. I thought my dish was okay, but Jon LOVED his. I looked over at his side of the table and asked if his portion was really small, or if he was just consuming his dinner really quickly. He said it was the latter, because the meat was delicious. (I thought the fries, although crispy, needed some seasoning. They sprinkled sea salt on the steak, but didn't have any for the fries???)

Non-food impressions of Mandaloun: The space is beautiful — lots of wood, stone and ironwork — definitely stands out from most of the other businesses on this strip of downtown Redwood City. We sat in what is called the "Fireplace Room," which is just a nice way of saying "the patio." It's basically an outdoor area in front of the main dining room/bar that's sealed shut with plastic screens when it's cold out. (Yes, there was a fireplace.)

The service was so-so. When I asked what kind of tea they had, the waiter said, "Chamomile?" in a bid to steer me in that direction. It turned out, he was hoping I would answer affirmatively because he couldn't remember what other teas they offer. And this may sound a bit nit-picky: When the teapot was brought to the table, it was accompanied by a large mug. Personally, I prefer smaller cups for hot tea because it allows the tea to cool down/become drinkable faster.

The timing was off with the service, too. We hadn't even finished our one small/starter plate, when our entrees came out. Then, we waited for what felt like a lifetime before our dessert order was taken. Towards the end of our meal, our area of the restaurant was starting to fill up. So our waiter was preoccupied taking orders from other tables, and then (apparently) hanging out at the bar with his co-workers.

At least the dessert was worth the wait. I was a bit annoyed that our waiter didn't bring us any utensils for the dessert course, but luckily, I still had my spoon from my tea. And let's be real here: I would have gladly devoured those churros with my hands, and happily licked my fingers of any residual chocolate-espresso sauce.

So I guess our experience at Mandaloun ended on a high note. But if we go back, I might be inclined to just order up dessert at the bar. Especially since they offer one of my favorite dessert wines (Inniskillin “Ice Wine” Cabernet Franc).

I hope Mandaloun is the start of something in Redwood City — and that more sophisticated dining options open up here. If the car and foot traffic that we saw on Friday night is any indication, the town is ready for it.

2021 Broadway Street
Redwood City, CA
(650) 367-7974