Bites Nearby: Silver Spring's Mandalay Draws Tastes from India, China and Thailand
Downtown Silver Spring restaurant launched with mom's Burmese recipes.
The influences that made Burmese cuisine what it is today were established long before the political debate started over the country's name. The military government changed Burma to Myanmar in 1989, around the time Aung Myint and his family moved to America. They brought the comfort of home cooking with them.
"It is the best of the best," according to Myint, one of the owners of Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe at 930 Bonifant St. The flavors of India, China and Thailand influence the Burmese recipes his mother introduced to the restaurant's customers.
"I love the flavors because I like spicy food a lot," said Emily Tien, a Burtonsville resident. "You can get mild, medium or very spicy. I often do the very spicy and I've never been disappointed."
Another patron from Burtonsville, Jim Street, really likes the coconut curry entrees that can be ordered with shrimp, chicken or tofu.
"I've been here a number of times, and I've really been very satisfied every time," said Street.
Myint describes the Burmese dishes on the menu as Asian food that is not as sweet as Chinese can be, not as spicy as some Indian and not as coconut infused as some Thai dishes. Diners can choose from an extensive list of salads as well as vegetarian, noodle, seafood, chicken and beef entrees.
"Salad is a big thing. It's almost like a staple," said Myint. "I think the Burmese dressing is so good that you can toss almost anything in it and have a great salad."
The dressing has lime juice, sesame seeds, peanuts and other ingredients Myint is not revealing. It is one of the creations his mom, Hla Hme, still keeps watch over. Although she no longer does heavy cooking at the restaurant, the former head chef oversees quality control.
"She is here every day. We can't keep her out of the kitchen. She loves the kitchen," added Myint. "She is definitely here to taste the sauces, check the quality and see everything."
It works for Rhonda Jenkins and many of her co-workers at the National Council for the Traditional Arts.
"We've had a couple of Christmas office get-togethers here. The food is very, very good," said Jenkins. "We're having a board meeting tonight. We ordered for our board members. They really like the food as well."
The restaurant has a carry out menu and alcoholic beverages are available if you dine in. Prices range from $5.49 for appetizers to 5.99 and up for salads. Most entrees are between $9.99 and $12.99. The $3.49 ShweJi dessert is listed in the 2009 Washingtonian article, "26 Reasons to Love Washington."
"That dessert is probably the most requested dessert recipe I have," Myint said. "It's actually influenced by an Indian dish."
Mandalay's owner will tell you the Shweji has a surprising ingredient and is perfect with the coconut ice cream (dairy-free). The baked dessert will most likely be on the menu of the new Mandalay slated to open in the District later this year. Myint and his family own the building being constructed at 9th & P Streets, NW.
"The customer base, the time you put in, the attachment to the location. I had to think of something permanent to do for the family," said Myint.
The Myints plan to keep the restaurant in Silver Spring. However, with a Purple Line light rail station and a new library coming to Bonifant Street, they are uncertain what will happen when the lease on the current location expires in 2014.
For now, Myint shows off the restaurant's success with a display of reviews in the entryway along with photos of the staff and customers.
"The best part about it is when I wake up in the morning, and I walk through the door, I smile," said Myint.
Check the Mandalay website for more information about the restaurant's hours and menu items.
Note: This is a restaurant profile, not a review. Opinions expressed do not represent the ideas of the writer or Patch.