We arrived at Union Station sometime after eight and were greeted by Epic and Miss Janet. They swooped us and we were on our way to enjoy some food at Mao's on Melrose. But first we hit the liquor store, because one of the perks of eating at Mao's is that it's BYOB. Yes, that's right, you can bring your own beer and wine sans corking fee.
Mao's is a Chinese restaurant that uses fresh ingredients to create Chinese dishes that can be shared family style. I'd only been to the Venice location and was excited to have the Melrose experience.
The restaurant was fairly empty when we arrived. We grabbed a few menus and seated ourselves at the large booth by the door. We pulled out our bottles of wine and the waitress brought us a wine opener and some glasses as she explained the day's specials. [Sidenote: They do not allow hard liquor, which I discovered after the waitress kindly asked me to put away my Crown Royal]
Mao's offers a wide-range of dishes including plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. We decided on the following dishes: The noodle special, Kungpao Chicken Garlic vegetables, Chicken Fried Rice, Brown Rice, Peasants' onion pancake, and the Beijing Spring roll.
Normally I'm not a fan of Chinese food because I'm usually subject to some type of Panda Kitchen or something of the like (GROSS!) but during my short stint in Venice, Mao's became my go-to place for Chinese.
The food arrived in a timely manner and at the same time, with the exception of the sides of rice we'd ordered, which the waitress promptly brought to our table as soon as we'd mentioned they'd been forgotten.
The food was flavorful and the portions were just right. The noodles, vegetables, and rice were well cooked with a variety of sauces and spices. I enjoyed an eggroll and traditional onion pancake with ginger and sweet & sour sauces. I’m a vegetarian but everyone else enjoyed chicken and shrimp with no complaints.
The group agreed that the food gets 3.5 BIG FACES and the restaurant as a whole gets a 4 due to the attentive staff, pleasant ambiance, and, of course, the BYOB factor.
Additional images after the jump..