Tuesday, July 12, 2005


If you live in the DC area, and you repeat my maxim (where by "my" I mean someone else's, but in this case someone else who has moved to some godforsaken state in the Midwest [or wherever Ohio is], thereby leaving it open for me to claim) that the best ethnic food is in the suburbs, and someone disagrees with you, then the best way to win the argument once and for all is to march them over to Silver Spring and feed them dinner at Mandalay. (But make them pick up the check; it's a small price to pay for enlightenment. By the way, is it just me, or does their logo/menu cover art look like a troupe of acrobats giving the hook'em horns sign?)

Silver Spring, for those of you unfamiliar with the area, covers a whole lot of ground: it's basically anything in the southeastern part of Montgomery County that isn't something else. The Mandalay is in what people often call downtown Silver Spring, which is easily eight miles from Aspen Hill, where I lived for a little more than a year, immediately after the infamous sniper attacks, and which is also considered Silver Spring. Downtown Silver Spring is not so very suburban these days, it having been revitalized with a plan that took a long time to get going but that eventually succeeded wildly. Within a short walk of the Mandalay, you'll find both the AFI Silver Theatre and a giant multiplex, so that on any given day, you can eat before or after a terrific or ghastly movie, not necessarily respectively. You will also be within a stone's throw of any number of new condominium construction, most of which will have been fully sold at astronomical prices before ground has been broken. Anyway, even with all the new and uncompleted construction, it's a pretty cool area, and I could probably live there happily, were it not for the aforementioned astronomical price problem.

Last night, the service was attentive but relaxed, which meant that the waitress was perfectly willing to let us paw over the menus for twenty minutes trying to figure out what we wanted to try. It was a difficult decision. (Yes, I am easily distracted by shiny objects; why do you ask?) I eventually settled on the Baya Gyaw (a fritter made from yellow split peas) for an appetizer, largely because it reminds me (somewhat) of the hungry tiger kibbeh recipe, which I have made with great success on a few occasions lately. I could say that this choice was especially appropriate because Mme. Redfox was one of the people who initially recommended (glowingly: the Mandalay has an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes) the restaurant to me, but really, I just figured that the Baya Gyaw would be really good, and it was. Do not fear the phosphorescent pink sauce that accompanies appetizers. A little artificial coloring never hurt anybody.

If you eat at Mandalay, you must have the green papaya salad (SL.09 on the menu). I am not making a suggestion here; I am explaining the nature of the universe to you. Don't forget it!

I haven't ever had a bad entree at Mandalay, and I certainly didn't last night. We had the KyetThar ThaYetThee Hin (chunks of chicken thigh simmered in pickled mango chutney) and the KyarZan Gyaw (noodles stir fried with pork -- you may choose another meat if you prefer -- and vegetables) last night. When you order the entree, your server asks you whether you prefer mild, medium, or spicy. I always order medium, which is really sort of medium-mild. I could handle more spice, but it's very good at medium, and you never know when you order spicy whether the chef's going to make it humanely spicy or turn-it-up-to-eleven spicy. Medium makes my scalp sweat without abusing my taste buds, and that seems like a happy compromise.

There is a reasonable selection of beer to accompany dinner (I had Yuenling last night). There is also a wine list that I have never bothered with. If you are in a leisurely mood after polishing off the entrees, the green tea (hand picked from the Myanmar mountains!) is particularly nice. There was no room for tea last night. The portions at Mandalay are generous though not ridiculously so, and one appetizer, one order of green papaya salad, and one entree would have been plenty for the two of us. The second entree was an unnecessary extravagance, but since the bill for both of us, was well under $40, including everything, I can perhaps be forgiven if my eyes were (at least before the dinner) bigger than my stomach.


Post a Comment

<< Home