The Washington Post

Mandalay (almost) ready for its debut in Shaw

"Open! Open! Open!” the family of Aung Myint has been urging the owner of the yet-to-launch Mandalay restaurant in Shaw since early September. With eight preview dinners behind it, mostly for friends and family, the food business would appear ready for prime time.

Mandalay's future address at 1501 Ninth St. NW. (Courtesy Aung Myint) Mandalay's future address at 1501 Ninth St. NW. (Courtesy Aung Myint)

Myint says he would like nothing better than to start serving Burmese food at 1501 Ninth St. NW. But while he has all the necessary permits and licenses to serve paying guests, he shares the headache of almost every restaurant owner these days: a lack of experienced servers. Myint says he doesn’t feel comfortable rolling out an elaborate fixed-price dinner without expert guides.

“I have to open by next week,” the restaurateur says. Otherwise, “it’s going to hurt me” financially. Oct. 9 is the earliest date he can see at the moment.

Unlike the original Mandalay in Silver Spring, the 100-seat offshoot is offering a seven-course spread for a single price, possibly $70, Myint says. Each night will feature a “star” entree around which Myint, a co-chef along with his wife, Mar, plans to offer appetizers, soups and other dishes to complement it. One item he expects to serve frequently is tea leaf salad, which he calls “my day-off salad” because he eats it even when he’s not cooking. Another dish he plans to showcase is samosa soup, which combines split peas with chilies, cabbage, mint and broken pieces of samosa. Non-alcoholic drinks made from fresh fruit and vegetable juices will accompany the feast. The same beverages can be spiked for an extra charge.

Good news for diners with allergies and vegetarians: The fixed-price spread can be made to suit their needs. Myint expects to offer two seating times, one between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., the second from 8 “until closing,” around 10:30 p.m. or so.

For neighbors, the restaurateur hopes to serve something even more novel:  a smaller, less expensive  menu to encourage more frequent visits. Myint says he’s trying to come up with an easy way to verify who is actually local.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said Mandalay could open as early as Oct. 7.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.



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