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Aung Myint and his family have been bringing Burmese flavors to the D.C. area for nearly two decades. Their Silver Spring restaurant, Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe, serves everything from warming curries and stir-fried noodles to hearty meat and seafood dishes.
But lately patrons have been craving the restaurant’s wide array of 13 refreshing salads, which gave Myint and his mother, Chef Hla Hme, the idea to open a fast-casual restaurant. Bandoola Bowl is scheduled to open this fall in Georgetown at 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
“People love coming and having salads at our place,” Myint says. “Sweetgreen and Chopt are doing well; why not be an Asian cousin of them and bring Burmese to a larger crowd instead of just Silver Spring?” He explains that the food in what’s now Myanmar blends the cuisines of Thailand, China, and India.
The restaurant’s challenge will be deciding how much to tame the heat. Hme grows what she calls a proprietary cross of Thai and Burmese chilis in her backyard that will be used to bring the fire. “We don’t want too much punch in the face though, so we’ll ease in,” Myint says.
Patrons will be able to choose between a slate of about 10 salads, many of them with a cabbage or Romaine lettuce base. They will be priced at around $9 to $13 each, depending on the toppings. Some are designed to be customized by diners, others are set recipes.
Toppings range from fresh ginger, fried garlic, crisped yellow split peas and carrots, steamed shrimp, green papaya, mango, lightly fried tofu, and roasted pork. The salads are tossed in a house-made dressing with sesame, peanuts, gram powder, and fish sauce. Vegan dressing is available, as are other globally inspired condiments.
Myint loves working with his mom, but the dressings are typically off limits for him. “We have our battles,” he says. “Mom never wants me to make the dressing. I don’t have the mom touch. We could be next to each other using the same ingredients but somehow her dressing tastes a little better than mine every single time.” He calls her both the rock and the glue of the family.
In addition to salads, Bandoola Bowl will serve seasonal specials like coconut curry chicken soup, plus sides and a traditional Burmese dessert featuring a custard made from coconut and semolina. Drinks will include Asian teas and specialty sodas.
The restaurant is 2,000 square feet and spans two floors of a former spice store, and SWATCHROOM is designing the space. Myint expects the hours of operation to be 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. “If we need to add later hours, we will,” he says.
Myint hints that this may be the first of several Bandoola Bowl restaurants in the region, and explains that the restaurant is named after General Maha Bandoola. The commander-in-chief of the Royal Burmese Armed Forces fought and died in the First Anglo-Burmese War in the 19th Century.
Washingtonians have also been able to sample Burmese cuisine at Toli Moli in Union Market. The stall from Simone Jacobson and her mother Jocelyn Law-Yone even served Burmese pickled tea leaf salad. Now the mother-daughter duo operate a Burmese bodega in a different section of Union Market should, you want to try your hand at Burmese recipes at home.
Bandoola Bowl, 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW; bandoolabowl.com