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Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe – Silver Spring, MD

20 years ago my dad’s cholesterol was really high, so the doctor put him on a 30-day, no-meat diet.  He decided he liked it, and hasn’t eaten meat since.  I was still living at home at the time and had no desire or plan to give up meat (and still don’t), so when they cooked, it was one meal for my dad and one for me & my mom.  He was still a novice at the vegetarian cooking, and nothing looked even the least bit appealing to me.  Once I moved out my mom gave up meat as well, rather than cooking 2 meals.  I guess that’s what you call true love.

When it’s just my dad and me, we don’t cook that often.  One year my mom had gone somewhere for Thanksgiving, and neither of us felt like cooking, so we went out for Chinese.  Before you laugh, the place was packed, and by the time we were leaving there was a wait.

Eating out was a challenge for my parents at first, because  back then restaurants really only catered to the meat eaters.  They eat out more often now because every restaurant has a pretty wide variety of meatless options, but they have the same problem with being creatures of habit.  My dad can list on one hand the restaurants they go to.

Tuesday night I decided I was going to find something different.  In my post about Thai at Silver Spring I talked about the explosion of Downtown Silver Spring.  Well there’s a lot of small, ethnic, locally owned restaurants just a short distance away that don’t get the hype or publicity, and they were there long before all the glitz and glitter.  I went online and found Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe

It’s a pretty small place–I would say no more than 20 tables–and when we walked in every one of them was full. We also saw people of pretty much every ethnicity eating there, which was another good sign.  We had to wait a few minutes, but before long we were seated and checking out the menu.

At the recommendation of our server, I had the WetThar ChoChin Gyaw

Mandalay Restaurant, Silver Spring MD - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Sliced pork, green pepper, onion, and tomato sautéed in light brown sauce

As you can see, I was about halfway through when I realized I had forgotten to take the picture.  Our food came out really fast, which I take as a not-so-good sign that it’s been pre-made and just served into a bowl.  However, it was exactly the opposite.  The pork was tender and delicious, the sauce was spicy, and it tasted like it had just been made.  It also had Chinese sausage, which was unique and very tasty.

My dad had a dish with mixed veggies & tofu.  It wasn’t exciting enough to be photo-worthy…sorry dad.  But he did say it was really good.

I ordered the Baya Gyaw as an appetizer.  However, when they brought our entrees out I realized that the server had forgotten to put in the order.  I stopped a gentleman who turned out to be the owner, and let him know.  He apologized profusely, and just a few minutes later, they arrived.

Mandalay Restaurant, Silver Spring MD - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Yellow split peas, ginger, garlic, and cilantro blended and deep fried

Wow these were really delicious!  Again, when they came out so fast I was afraid they had been sitting there.  But I’m pretty sure they went directly from the fryer to our table.  It’s hard to explain the flavor.  Ginger and garlic together can be a dangerous combination, but they were both extremely mild.  I do know I could have easily eaten all 3 by myself, and still wanted more.

They have the dessert menu listed on the placemats…very smart marketing move.  I saw the coconut ice cream, and just knew we had to have it.

Mandalay Restaurant, Silver Spring MD - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Yes, it does come in a coconut shell!  The texture is more like shaved, compacted ice than traditional ice cream.  But it was really good and light.  The coconut flavor wasn’t overpowering at all.  Apparently it’s not always available, so I’m really glad we lucked out that night.  And they let my dad take home the shell, which he was really pumped about.

Will I go back?  Definitely!  I’ve found a new place for my parents to branch out to and the food is really good.  The only down side is they didn’t have brown rice.  I don’t know if that’s normal or just that night.

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Monday 30th of July 2012

That's really cool Brian! Great to know. And I'll make sure to give these tips to my parents :) I really want to try some of the other restaurants on those side streets as well.


Sunday 29th of July 2012

You have managed to trip upon what my family has called our favorite restaurant for the past 7 years! We always order the mango salad (so refreshing) and I enjoy the chicken in pickled mango curry. The shrimp in coconut curry is also an incredible dish. Not only a good choice for those who are vegetarian, but I know someone who is vegan who told me she likes to eat there because they use separate cooking utensils for meat and non-meat dishes. A true gem in downtown Silver Spring!

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