Closed since an August 2019 kitchen fire, a freshly remodeled Mandarin House in La Jolla has been open for take-out since June and recently re-opened for indoor dining.
“We are about 93% done with remodeling,” said Nelson Law, owner of the restaurant at 6765 La Jolla Blvd., just south of Bonair Street. “We’re still working on our front facade and fixing things up in the dining room. We need to repair the north wall where someone had hit it with their car. We’re going to put a big window in it.”
Law characterized Mandarin House’s return as a journey. “It took four months to get the insurance settled and then it took 12 months to get our first permits approved,” he said. “Parts of the City’s Building Department were slowed by COVID and things just took a while. Then it was just back-and-forth getting the kitchen completely rebuilt with all new equipment.”
The owner of Mandarin House said the dining room indoors has a new layout but not to worry, it won’t be too different from what patrons are used to. “We’ve just kind of updated it,” he said of the ambiance. “We kept the old-school feel. We are an old Chinese restaurant. We wanted to maintain that. But it is 2021. We just brushed it (design) up, gave it a little facelift and a new vibe. A lot of people like it. It appeals to our longtime customers, and our newer crowd as well.”
Law added the restaurant had not been updated since the 1990s. “Finding new staff has also been a challenge in this climate,” he added. “But we’ve got a good crew, full on the weekends, and we got all our chefs back.”
The backroom of the Mandarin House will be available, with reservations, for group parties over the holidays. The restaurant will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day serving an abbreviated holiday menu.
Law said their menu is “by and large the same with all of the old favorites.”
The new and improved Mandarin House is now open six days a week and is closed Mondays. Hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m., closed from 2-4 p.m., then re-opening again for dinner from 4-9 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Sunday has a short day, 4-8:30 p.m.
“A lot of people are happy that we’re back,” noted Law adding, “We’ve been here since 1977. I’m 36 years old and a lot of our customers have been coming since before I was alive. And we’re glad to have them.”
The cause of the non-injury 2019 summer blaze at Mandarin House was determined by fire investigators to be an electrical fire caused by grease buildup in the kitchen vent. The fire was confined to the kitchen and no one was inside the restaurant when it started.
The 44-year-old Mandarin House was originally planned to reopen following repairs and a remodel by the December 2019 year-end holidays, which was then extended to early 2020. The opening was delayed yet again following the pandemic in mid-March 2020.
Nelson Law’s late father, Tat “John” Law, and his partner, Wai “Bill” Man, worked their way up from dishwashers and delivery boys to head chefs in Hong Kong before relocating to the United States.
The Mandarin House in La Jolla was opened on April 21, 1977, by Law and Man. Both men died of cancer. That’s why Mandarin House donates all proceeds from their annual Chinese New Year parties to The Cancer Research Institute, and Scripps Cancer Center, to help find a future cure and to help patients currently going through cancer treatment.