Bida Manda report, new Laotian resataurant in Raleigh
I was surprised I hadn't seen anything about this on Chowhound, so had to post my experience from last night, which was fantastic. I may have been a little biased, as the owner is one of my classmate's friends and I love new Southeast Asian food, but the space is beautiful, prices were reasonable, and the cocktails, appetizers, entrees, and desserts were all excellent. The owners are a Laotian-American brother-sister team and named the restaurant for their parents, with photos from Laos and memorabilia of their parents scattered around the room. The chef is Laotian, and I believe the bartender/mixologist used to be at Fox Liquor Bar. The owner, Van, came around and talked to all the tables, asking what entrees people had ordered and what they thought.
Our party of 4 had:
*Pina Colada- excellent and potent, with housemade coconut cream
*Witbier flip- creamy, very tasty beer cocktail with cognac, lemon, simple syrup and egg
*Sazerac- I just had a small taste, but seemed well-balanced
*Ginger Julep- strong and ginger-y, served in a nice metal cup with tons of ice that tempers the drink as it melts
Appetizers (All were $6.90, IIRC)
*Ground pork spring rolls- a little different from typical Thai/Vietnamese fried spring rolls, with a richer, almost pate-like flavor, very good
*Roasted Anaheim pepper stuffed with Lao sausage- subtly spicy in places, somewhat small, everyone liked it
*Soft shell crab- delicately fried on top of lettuce-like greens, very tasty
Entrees (all $13-15, I believe)
*Beef Larb- excellent and spicy (they ask about preferred spice level), similar to Thai and Cambodian larb I've had, with really excellent sticky rice served (and steamed?) in an enclosed wicker basket. You can order it traditional style with tripe, but I opted not to.
*Green papaya salad with grilled duck- you can choose your topping from steak, duck, chicken, and I believe veggies as well. A big hit, spice level also to order.
*Saffron crepe with shrimp and bacon- delicious comfort food, with a great fish sauce
*Caramelized ginger pork ribs- possibly everyone's favorite, very tender with excellent balance of savory-sweet-ginger flavors, also served with sticky rice
Dessert (can't recall prices)
*Purple sticky rice custard topped with mango and coconut- like a gourmet version of Thai mango sticky rice, delicious
*Tempura bananas with ice cream- nicely fried and really tasty
I hope this wasn't too much detail. You can probably tell we had a great time, were very impressed by the whole experience, and want to go back again soon. There were definitely some more dishes (pork belly soup, basil beef, summer rolls, pho...) that we were excited to try.
We thought the food was good but not great. Duck larb and chicken green papaya salad quite good, crepe (banh xeo) was ok - too oily, and catfish wrapped in banana leaf way way overcooked. Note that I have a bit of a jaded palate when it comes to SE Asian food - my in-laws are from that part of the world. I think Raleigh lacks good SE Asian restaurants so places that are just pretty good get rave reviews.
So of course I had to wikipedia Laos and Laos cuisine and yeah, apparently it's all about sticky rice. And given it's location tween Vietnam and Thailand, it's got influences from both in its food. So the menu may be authentic but it'll probably also be familiar.
But yeah, I still like the spot, I hope Bida Manda does well. Now if we could only get a Malaysian restaurant!
We had a late dinner last night at Bida Manda. I'll definitely be going back. The ambiance is really nice and puts you in a nice vibe right away. We ate dinner at the bar and had terrific service from a mixologist named Scott who had a great personality and a deft had with the shakers!
We had a champagne cocktail with homemade sugars (5 to choose from; I got lemon), a Manzapia (tequila cocktail with a hit of celery - I loved it and it went very well with the entree, surprisingly enough! ), and a Marie Clair (spin on a cosmopolitan martini, which I also thought was delish).
We got an order of summer rolls which I did not enjoy. The peanut sauce was thick as peanut butter almost and it was really just one roll cut into about 6 pieces, sushi style. It had entirely too much cilantro for my taste.
We split the green papaya with chicken for the entree and it was utterly fantastic. My taste buds did a jive! Really enticing flavors and there wasn't a drop left on the plate afterwards.
Definitely will be back. This place was in the old Duck & Dumpling location, I believe.