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Dec 10, 2006 01:35 AM

The Road Back to Mandalay (San Francisco Burmese)

Three weeks ago we took my dad to dinner at Mandalay, mostly 'cause we thought it would be easy to park at our cousins' house around the corner. Even though the parking didn't work out, I'm glad I went back because the food, and especially the service, were much better than my previous visit. Also the interior has been freshened up and felt much warmer and relaxing. Since we'd had a late (and not terribly tasty) lunch at JCC, we ordered lightly, just two apps and two noodle soups from the Burmese side of the menu for the four of us to share.

The first up, the rainbow salad, featured 10+ different ingredients that were mixed at the table. The dressing had a lot of spark and funk, and this time the deep-fried shallots, golden brown garlic chips and other crunchy bits were fresh as can be. The glass noodles in the center were left uncut making them a bit hard to serve and eat. The small cubes of fried tofu tended to dilute the flavor and I'd have them omitted if I ordered this again.

The balada (aka paratha) was much better than before, flakier and crisper. While the very center was still a bit damp, it wasn't doughy and raw, wet inside like the last time. When I put a wedge on my dad's plate with a spoonful of the accompanying chicken curry and he asked what it was, I answered, "pizza, Burmese style". He decided he liked Burmese pizza!

The daily specials listed on the board included a fish chowder-like description that inquiry id'd as mohinga. This was a wonderful version with a slightly thickened and richly flavored fumet de poisson-like base fish stock. Bits of mild white fish, crunchy yellow peas, crispy fried shallots, sliced hard-cooked egg, and thin rice noodles swirled in the garlicky stock with a more than modest chili heat.

Image of rainbow salad, balada and mohinga -

My favorite dish was the coconut chicken noodle soup (ono kaukswe). The mild yellow curry-flavored chicken soup enriched with sweet coconut milk had bite-size pieces of smooth and succulent boneless dark meat chicken and soft egg noodles. Garnished with crispy shallots and garlic, egg, and bright green cilantro leaves, adding a squirt of lemon juice and a spoonful of chili paste highlighted the complex flavors even more. My dad handed me his bowl to ask for more and was visibly dismayed to learn that it was all gone.

With one beer and a ginger-lemonade, our tab with tax and tip was $44. It was just the right amount of delicious chow for a light dinner and a bargain to boot.

Mandalay Restaurant [Richmond
]4348 California St, at 6th
San Francisco 94118

Last visit to Mandalay (2003) -

Coconut chicken noodle soup at Burma Superstar -

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  1. Thanks for this report. I used to love going to Mandalay years ago and finally stopped going because I literally could not find parking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sharon S.

      At least now the food has improved enough to be worthy of the parking hassles. Maybe lunch time?

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I don't find parking in that neighborhood as difficult as it used to be.

    2. This is one of my favorite and regular restaurants in that neighborhood. I find them pretty consistent, and love anything where they use mango. :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: singleguychef

        I'm sure they're delicious, but I just can't make myself order from the "chinese" side of the menu here. But here's an old report from Maya -

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I always order the Burmese items. The Chinese dishes were not nearly as good when I tried them (years ago now).

      2. I agree with all of you Mandalay is so much nicer a place to eat than Burma Superstar. I never got why people would wait for a table at BS when it was so much simpler to go to Mandalay without the wait.
        Does anyone know why the Chinese dishes are sort of Szechuan influenced? Does it have anything to do with WWII, or is it the proximity of Burma to Szechuan? Thanks, and I better be able to still get a table there or I'm gonna be angry.

        1. If parking isn't so bad, I would go to Mandalay more often. We always order the samosa, our favorite appetizer. The tea salad is also great. It reminded me of the version my friend's mom used to make at home. The smoked tea duck is crispy and flavorful. It comes with steamed buns, like Peking duck. The Mandalay beef and rainbow chicken are also nice.

          1. how can you say it was just the right amount of chow if your dad didn't get his seconds?

            1 Reply
            1. re: echo

              You're right...I did a sleight of hand giving him more of the mohinga that followed and topped him up with one of the complimentary fortune cookies. (vbg)