Whenever Burmese food is mentioned, it seems like everyone immediately recommends Burma Superstar. Yelpers seem to agree as evidenced by the 2000+ reviews giving them a solid 4 stars. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints is the horrendously long wait that often comes with a meal at this Richmond District-located establishment. Gap Girl’s dad is from Burma, and she told me that her family prefers Mandalay noting that the food is as good, if not better and the line is usually not as painful. So TUmmy picked up Pdho and myself, and we zoomed on over in her little Mini Cooper and met Pcess at Mandalay for dinner. We made a reservation, but there was still a reasonably-sized crowd waiting to be seated.
It’s not a terribly big restaurant, but they did their best to squeeze people into some pretty tight spaces. The restaurant is also not very well-lit, but it got even darker at one point near the beginning of meal. It was odd, because the lights completely turned down in one half of the restaurant, and we realized after we asked them to turn the lights up that they did it on purpose to send us a subtle hint that they didn’t allow pictures. Can you believe that?!? So unfortunately, Pdho was only able to capture a couple pictures of our appetizers.
The Chicken Samosa was pretty good. I liked the light and flaky outside skin which I prefer much more than the normally thicker skin on Indian samosas. The filling was mainly mashed potatoes with chicken and mix of herbs.
The Tea Salad is a traditional Burmese dish which, at Mandalay, came to the table on a serving dish so that the waitress would describe all the individual ingredients which would separately laid out. Truth be told, I couldn’t understand her accent, so I had to look it up. In addition to Burmese tea leaves, there are toasted lentils seeds, ground shrimp, fried garlic, green pepper, sesame seeds and peanuts. She mixed it all on the spot and added a dressing of some sort. It was good. The peppers really added a kick, and there was some taste that I couldn’t quite pinpoint which was a little bit funny, but I kept eating it. I really liked the crunch of the fried garlic and peanuts.
Unfortunately, it’s been too long between writing this entry and the actual meal, so without any pictures, I can’t recall what I ate. =( The only dish I can really recall was the Mandalay Mango Chicken which was pan-fried chicken sauteed with onions, fresh mangoes and green chili. It was pretty good. I really liked the balance of sweetness that the mangoes added to the dish.
Overall, the food is pretty good in spite of the fact that I can’t remember exactly what I ate. I remember thinking the flavors were interesting and the food was pretty delicious. It is also very reasonably priced. I think the portions tend to be a little bit on the smaller side, but I still felt very full by the end of the meal. Nevertheless, pictures aside, I would definitely come back, but I have to admit that the fact that they didn’t let us take any pictures is a little bit of a knock against them.
4344 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
PAFO Ratings for Mandalay:
Price 2½ stars
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars