First of all, we have to thank the restaurant owner, his son, and the friendly servers for giving us a wonderful first Burmese cuisine experience! Just can't express how much we've enjoyed dining there. We learned a lot from the Myanmar culture to the Burmese cuisine.
We got the Let Phet Thoke (green tea leaf salad) to start our meal as we did a little bit of research and learned that the green tea leaf salad is Myanmar's popular delicacy. It is made of pickled green tea leaf mixed with tomatoes, cabbage, fried garlic, crispy yellow peas topped with an almost miso-like Burmese dressing. It was not a familiar taste at first, but as we ate more, that was actually a very refreshing dish. The shredded cabbage slices could be a bit bitter at first, but overall this salad is a bit sweet and salty from its national dressing.
We asked the owner to recommend a national and traditional Burmese dish, and he suggested the Ame Thar Hnut (slow-cooked beef in an onion-based curry sauce). That beef was INCREDIBLY tender and the sauce was AMAZINGLY flavorful! You can choose the level of spiciness of the curry sauce: mild, medium, and spicy. My husband and I love spicy food, so we got the spicy level. The curry sauce was sweet and spicy (not the kind of spiciness that makes your tongue burn or sweat). It went perfectly with the huge tender piece of a beef chunk. This dish also comes with a few slices of fried potatoes. They are not the potato chips that we normally see in bags, but are thin slices of battered potatoes that were deep fried and were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It went so well with the curry sauce as well! This dish also comes with a bowl of rice. My husband thought the curry sauce was a bit salty if you eat the beef alone, but eating it with rice was just perfect! This is a highly recommended dish if you like beef!
The second entree we got was Nyat KaukSwe Gyaw (flat rice noodles stir-fried with bean sprouts, lettuce, your choice of meat, and topped with a fried egg and chopped peanuts). That was amazing as well! I'm familiar with this noodle dish as I'm from Hong Kong and we eat stir-fried flat rice noodles as well. The difference between the Hong Kong one and the Burmese one is the extra chopped peanuts, the fried egg, and the side fish sauce on the Burmese version. We absolutely loved this noodle dish - the flat noodles were chewy, the bean sprouts were crisp and fresh, and the chopped peanuts added extra texture to it. The fish sauce didn't taste fishy at all, it's more like a sesame-oil-based sauce with maybe some fish powder, and it just added extra richness to this dish! Yum!
The owner brought us the ShweJi (baked wheat and coconut cream with raisins, eggs, milk, and poppy seeds). This dessert was an award-winning dish from the Washingtonian. The freshly baked cake was gooey and creamy. It was quite hot on my first bite and we really loved the sweetness from the coconut cream and raisins. This was an amazing dessert and did not feel heavy at all (even though we were stuffed from our salad and entrees!).
We got the coconut ice cream as our second dessert. We were most excited about this because of the pictures on Yelp! How often do you find coconut ice cream in a coconut shell? This ice cream was not only cute-looking but was very delicious as well. The ice cream is sort of like a sorbet, at the same time it's creamy and has a rich coconut flavor. You'd really like this if you love coconut!
Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe deserves the Washingtonian's 100 Best Bargain Restaurants award. Pricing was reasonable and we brought home three boxes of leftovers.
Street parking available near the restaurant, free on the weekends.
It was quite unexpected to see how diverse the restaurant location is. That town has restaurants that range from Italian to Thai to Ethiopian. Not a bad decision to take a walk in the area after your meal at Mandalay!
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