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Best dishes at Mandalay? [San Francisco]

We are going on Friday night. it's been on our list of places to try forever, but now that we are finally going I'm wondering what to order. There will only be two of us so we can't order a ton of dishes, so far I'm eyeing the tea leaf salad the paratha bread and the pumpkin or beef curry. I've heard the Mandaly noodles are good too, but I want to know what you guys like.

Thanks!
Kristine

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  1. Tea leaf salad, samusa soup, mohinga / moo hin ga (fish chowder), chin mong jaw (sour vegetables), okra egg curry, and Burmese-style noodle are Burmese dishes.

    Most of the rest of the menu is a mix of Indian, Chinese, and Thai dishes that you could probably get done better at other, non-Burmese restaurants.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      yes, mandalay noodles are indeed good. i think robert nailed it.

      it's not authentically burmese, but the banana blossom salad is amazing and occasionally available as a special.

      if they try to bring you fortune cookies, request the sweet potato jello instead.

      1. re: vulber

        Sweet potato jello? What a great tip!

        I'm fond of the rainbow salad.

        For reasons described above, definitely skip the pumpkin curry... it's not very good there. Make sure to taste some of their housemade hot sauce. It's true that you can get paratha at just about any Indian place in SF, but it is a great medium onto which to spread their housemade hot sauce.

        1. re: vulber

          I also really like the balada there, just be sure to eat it while it's hot (kind of a no brainer for anything deep fried, I guess). Samusa soup has been solid though once they kinda skimped on the samusa bits. Tea leaf salad is the best I've had yet and superior to the rainbow or ginger for me as it is such a unique flavour. Go with vulber's suggestion about the jelly for sure!

          There was a rather nice lemon-ginger drink as well but that was a couple of trips ago.

          1. re: grayelf

            That's right, the balada! That's what's great with the housemade hot sauce, not the paratha.

          2. re: vulber

            +1 for the Mandalay noodles

            I seemed to be the only person at our table who liked the sour vegetables which included sour greens and more solid fermented crunchy brassica (kohlrabi?). It reminded me of persian food. The default shrimp would work better than the tofu we got.

            They actually brought us the sweet potato jelly without asking.. That's a first. Excellent stuff!

             
            1. re: hyperbowler

              I've concluded that the sour veggies might be a step beyond entry-level Burmese. I went a couple weeks ago with a school friend who has never had Burmese before and didn't know what to expect. She really liked the Mandalay noodles, which I think are an easy in because of the familiar comfort of chicken flavor, liked the tea leaf salad OK, and only had a couple bites of the sour vegetables (which I love, so no complaints from me).

              Agree that shrimp is a better choice, but Mandalay is a great option in SF for dining with vegetarians, and when that's the case for me, we get sour vegetables with tofu.

        2. also, not authentically burmese, but the housemade non-alcoholic drinks are very good; there's one signature one in in particular that i'm blanking out on...

          1. Tea leaf, rainbow, and ginger salad are all variations on the same dish. I think the tea leaf version is the most exciting, though if you're sensitive to caffeine, you might not want to eat it at dinnertime.

            1. When we were there in March we adored the tea leaf salad and paratha. AMAZING! We told them we wanted Burmese dishes and they made suggestions for us.

              1. another reco for the Tea Leaf Salad. they don't use lettuce, which many other Burmese spots do. more authentic and helps bring out the flavor of the fermented tea leaves

                11 Replies
                1. re: drewskiSF

                  Yes, I also enjoy they don't use lettuce. We made one ourselves at home and it had lettuce - it just wasn't the same, but it did hit the spot since our Burmese options are limited here in Toronto.

                  1. re: TeacherFoodie

                    Well we never made it on Friday, husband got stuck working overtime, but we are making a second attempt on Sunday.

                    Thanks for all the replies, I will be sure to report back.

                    I'm curious about the Burmese curry lamb and the tea smoked duck. ( I know it's probably not authentically Burmese, but I'm a sucker for duck.)

                    1. re: Kristine

                      On account of the duck, I'm glad you didn't make it! Not knowing if it was an traditional item or a red herring, I ordered it last time I was there. Authentic or not, it was dried out and bordering on unpalatable.

                      1. re: Kristine

                        It's 100% authentic for a Burmese restaurant to serve Chinese and Indian dishes as they're part of the everyday diet in Burma. I just have yet to get one in a Burmese restaurant that was the equal of what I could get at a Chinese or Indian restaurant. It's kind of like ordering pasta in an Ethiopian restaurant.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Are most Ethiopian restaurants owned by Italians?

                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            Pasta in Ethiopia is a holdover from the colonial era, much like pho and banh mi in Vietnam.

                        2. re: Kristine

                          sichuan fortune house in walnut creek has an amazing tea-smoked duck, and i'd imagine many of the closer sichuan restaurants also do great versions

                          1. re: vulber

                            Nice meal tonight -reminded us of Burma. Thanks to all the suggestions.

                            Excellent tea salad and mohinga and balada. Also good was the Burmese beef curry -- one sees that often in Burma.

                            Service was erratic.

                            The tea smoked duck at Yi Yuan Szechuan in Millbrae was excellent, probably the best thing at a recent meal, reported in another thread.

                            1. re: Thomas Nash

                              We had slightly odd service the last time we went to Mandalay (there's an opening line in there somewhere). It may have been because they didn't seat us for 30 minutes after the appointed time of our reservation... but they made up for it with the arrival of the sweet potato jellies :-).

                              I don't know where tea-smoked duck originated but all my favourite renditions of it have been at Shanghainese restos, either at home or in SF (Shanghai House's).

                              1. re: grayelf

                                I believe tea-smoked duck is actually Sichuan in origin, from a little alley called "The Mousehole" in Chengdu, according to Fuchsia Dunlop in her cookbook Land of Plenty, p 180. There is still a descendent restaurant in Chengdu. I am sorry I missed it when we were there. I have generally seen the dish on Sichuan restaurant menus. First time we had it was at a revelatory Sichuan meal in Hong Kong. Around here,what matters most is whether it has been prepared a relatively short while before serving.

                                According to Fuchsia, it was originally an imperial dish prepared in Beijing and brought by the inventor back to Chengdu and a restaurant he opened when he returned.

                    2. My favorites are:
                      Tea leaf salad
                      Singapore-style rice noodle
                      Dry fried string beans
                      Curry lamb

                      1. Jia San Hinga (Black Pepper Soup) is my go-to dish when I feel a cold encroaching. It's both delicious and restorative.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cynsa

                          We tried the jia san hinga on our latest trip and loved it. Has fish in it but not fishy at all, very light and would indeed be perfect if you were feeling a tad under the weather.