Mandopop, short for Mandarin pop music, is Bangkok’s answer to all those nagging complaints one might have about Chinese restaurants.
Text & Photos by Paul Cypert.
Imagine a completely modern space with 30ft-high glass panels, the rooms awash in a cool blue lighting. The ground floor is a mix match of tall bar style seating and intimate square tables. Stylish Helvetica font menus arrive at the table and you select from an extensive range of wine or mixed cocktails before deciding on your mains – tastefully plated creations ready for a magazine spread. The newest tapas bar or European bistro? Nope, this is Mandopop, Bangkok’s newest Chinese restaurant.
We love a great Chinese meal, and we’d enjoy the cuisine more often if it weren’t for the restaurants – the tacky interiors, lazy Suzanne’s, Engrish-riddled menus that leave you guessing as to the real dish, and service staff that is either blatantly rude or unable to understand you. It’s off putting to say the least.
Mandopop, short for Mandarin pop music, is Bangkok’s answer to all those nagging complaints one might have about Chinese restaurants. It’s contemporary Hong Kong-style Chinese food, but not to Bo Innovation extremes (no molecular Chinese food here just yet).
Walking up to the stand-alone restaurant nestled up against the Oriental Residences you’re immediately struck by just how different this space is from Bangkok’s other Chinese outlets. The neighborhood’s various skyscrapers reflect off the glass exterior as you approach. You enter the restaurant to find blues and blacks in place of the traditional red and white. There’s a stunning combination of natural woods, steels, and glass normally reserved for a modern loft condo space.
Diners can choose to dine in different settings located throughout the space. Downstairs you can enjoy your meal in plush low to the ground seating or on the tall bar stools normally associated with wine bars. If you call ahead and book there’s also a quiet booth separated from the rest of the space by sliding doors and silk curtains for when you’re needing a bit more intimacy…or well, the type of privacy celebs seem to enjoy as it’s out in front for the world to notice.
If you’re truly looking to escape the gaze of others though you can book upstairs in one of the four private dining areas. Themed after the four seasons these rooms are accessible via back elevator so you can enter in stealth without walking past the masses downstairs. The upstairs rooms feature iPod docks, large screen TVs and seamless wall jacking capabilities when you need to plug in your laptop and run a business meeting. Masterful contemporary Chinese art pieces are carefully chosen as a visual center point for each room to give it a more natural home feel.
Mandopop is definitely a restaurant to come to for drinks as much as the food, so before ordering be sure to peruse either the wine or mixed drink menus. The owner is one of Bangkok’s most prolific wine importers so you’re assured a good variety of grapes at lower than average prices (be sure to hit happy hour). The mixed drinks manage a successful balance of Chinese flavors and modern style. We really enjoyed the Kok fah Mojito made from rum, lime, syrup, and mint sweet basil seed and the Padparasha made from Amaretto, orange curacao, and orange juice (also beautifully presented with a large M branded ice sphere).
The food is the creation of Adian Chua from Singapore. He’s worked in various restaurants throughout Singapore, India, and now Bangkok in his 20-plus year culinary career. You can sample some of his signature creations from either the extensive a la carte menu or from one of his suggested tasting menus. We’d recommend coming hungry and ready to sample many dishes.
We started our evening’s meal with dim sum – a lovely steamed prawn dumpling with spinach skin. It’s not really spinach, but green in color due to the inclusion of a special ingredient when making the dough. With the accompanying chili sauces complimenting the prawns the table had an early favorite dish.
Next out was a pan-fried cod dish with ginger scallion sauce. The sauce was lovely, but our cod was slightly overcooked (but this could be chalked up to their holding the dishes at the pass while we took photos). After the cod we enjoyed an interesting noodle dish where the noodles were actually made from scallops. Maybe not the best for our cholesterol, but certainly worth sampling.
Then the dishes began arriving in a flurry, each as tasty as the last, and we all were reaching over ourselves for a bit of this or that. There was a tenderloin beef in black pepper sauce – cubed, tender, and over too soon. Every American seems to love Kong Pao chicken despite our version having very little left of the authentic flavors of the east. This interpretation lay somewhere in between both. We even had, a first for me, a Chinese lamb dish that to my limited palate wasn’t the most authentically Chinese tasting dish but still tasty.
For dessert we were all impressed by the seasonal fruit with chocolate fondue (only order when you have four or more in your group). The showy dessert was massive and the fresh fruit dipped into chocolate left our table overstuffed but satisfied.
Mandopop is an all around enjoyable dining experience. While we weren’t so blown away we lusted for a hasty return and resampling, we did leave full and happy…and isn’t that really how a night out should end? If you’re as sick of traditionally styled Chinese restaurants as we are, please do you part and visit. Bangkok loves to copy the successful and if Mandopop can manage to create a stir with it’s modern take on the cuisine, we can hopefully enjoy a shift in trends throughout the city at other outlets as well.
Mandopop Chinese Restaurant
Oriental Residence, 110 Wireless Rd (BTS: Ploenchit)