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Mandalay, one of DC's best kept secrets

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Owners of Silver Spring’s popular Burmese restaurant Mandalay recently made the exciting decision to open a second venue in Shaw’s ever-expanding 9th Street corridor. The menu at this Mandalay is wildly different than the first location in that there is no a la carte menu. The venue serves a 7 course menu for $70, with an optional cocktail or wine pairing. Vegetarians and vegans can be easily accommodated.

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What is not different than the original Mandalay is the quality of food: it is excellent Burmese food is a blend of Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisines; in many ways it highlights the best aspects of culinary traditions of Southeast Asian cultures.

On a recent night, the meal opened with a colorful cabbage salad, tossed with sesame seeds, lightly dressed in a ginger sauce, and bejeweled with tidbits of freshly fried garlic. Refreshing, crunchy, and flavorful, it wets your palate and introduces you to the flavors of the cuisine.

This course was followed by a plate of fried bean paste fritters, served with a garlic chili sauce. It may not sound good, but it is the perfect appetizer: fried, meaty-tasting, finger food.

Soup appears next, a light squash concoction that is a warm and savory. The base of the soup is an onion and tomato based broth.

Your next three courses will appear together: cooked eggplant and okra, topped with fresh cilantro; a rich coconut curry with pumpkin, and spicy noodles tossed with bell peppers. The bright colors of the food combined with the textures of creamy curry, crispy peppers, and soft eggplant is a feast for your eyes and your taste buds. Extra chili peppers are available for those who want to increase the heat factor.

The final dish is a sweet banana and coconut pudding, which is perhaps the least exciting of the dishes. But, Asian desserts are never the best so this isn't much of a surprise.

Wine pairings could use improvement, but the Burmese tea served and refilled umpteenth number of times is soothing and perfect.

The restaurant itself is simple: black tables, no art work, and a plain setting, but the food makes up for it in spades. If you don’t want to fork over the cash for the tasting menu, try the lounge on the ground floor of the restaurant. Drinks and a few dishes are available a la carte. Head over now before this restaurant is discovered and seats are filled up weeks in advance! Reservations are required for the tasting menu.

Mandalay, 1501 9th Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001, 202-644-8806