City Paper is not for tourists
Bandoola Bowl hopes to wriggle you free of your salad rut, especially if you eat it like you’re on a treasure hunt by pushing piles of lettuce around until you encounter the much tastier mix-ins. The Burmese fast casual restaurant from Aung Myint opens April 23 in Georgetown and builds salads that are packed with flavors and textures.
“If the dressing is too heavy, the crunch goes away,” Myint says. “I’m not a big fan of that. I always love texture.” He uses cabbage, fried garlic chips, fried shallots, and crispy yellow peas to add crunch.
Customers can choose from ten salad options ($10 to $13) or they can custom build their own bowls. Salads are available made-to-order or prepackaged for grab-and-go. In addition to the ten main salads, there will also be bread similar to naan, rotating specials, and shweji (a Burmese semolina cake) for dessert. View the menu here. Beverages at Bandoola Bowl will include flavored sparkling waters, Boylan Soda, and ITO EN tea.
Since Myint lives above Chaplins, he’s been testing the staff there on his recipes. Their reaction suggests that the pork salad will be the biggest hit. It contains roasted pork, cabbage, romaine, onions, tomato, red pepper, chopped cilantro, lime, crispy garlic, and fried shallots.
Myint teamed up with his mom, Hla Hme, on the recipes. Hme has helmed the kitchen at Silver Spring Burmese restaurant Mandalay for almost two decades. Myint says it took 14 years for his mom to come around to the fast casual concept. “In a fast casual setting it’s not feasible to spend more than 5 to 10 minutes on a salad,” Myint explains. “She wanted the old-school way, where everything is made from scratch per salad.”
Despite the fact that 40 to 50 percent of sales at Mandalay are salads, Myint says his mom was also worried that salads are too narrow a focus to center a business around. “Look at sweetgreen and Chopt, why can’t we sustain?”
Hme came around. And she’ll be supplying Bandoola Bowl with chili peppers from her suburban Maryland garden. “We get about 100 pounds per year,” Myint brags. “This year a little more because we had a ton of rain.”
The restaurant is named after a celebrated Burmese general who, with the help of his war elephant, fought off the British and later, the Japanese. Myint hopes his new restaurant further introduces Washingtonians to Burmese cuisine and culture, especially if he’s able to open more locations.
“Just like we do at Mandalay,” Myint says. “Even though we’ve been around for 19 years, on a daily basis there are always a few customers who want to know where Burma is. Myanmar if you want to be technical.” He describes the cuisine as a melting pot with Thai, Indian, and Chinese influences.
With Bandoola Bowl, Myint is in good company. Another Burmese restaurant is coming to the District—Thamee from Jocelyn Law-Yone and Simone Jacobson. It’s set to open in the former Sally’s Middle Name space on H Street NE.
Bandoola Bowl, 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW; (202) 758-3184; bandoolabowl.com