Bollywood Grill Restaurant

Bollywood Grill is located in a suburban strip mall in Glastonbury, Connecticut. The outside of the restaurant is very nondescript, but, once you step inside, you are treated to the smells, sights and sounds of India. There is a temple to Lords Ganesh and Lakshmi at the entrance (the money collected at the temple is donated to local charities) and relaxing music playing throughout the space.  Customers are greeted warmly and led into a dining room with colorful decor. The smells of spices float gently through the air, but are by no means overwhelming.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is calm and serene.

I visited the restaurant, which I have gone to very often, with a friend who has also eaten there before.  I started with a fabulous drink called the Madrasi Margarita.  This drink combined the sweetness of mango with salt on the glass rim to provide a treat for the tastebuds.

As my main course, I had the Bollywood Chili Chicken. This dish featured boneless chicken with spices, onion and green pepper. The vibrant red color of the sauce was a harbinger of the spicy goodness that was to come. The chicken was tender and well seasoned. I ordered the spice level medium to spicy and it did not disappoint. It came with basmati rice, which was fluffy with a hint of spice. My dining companion ordered the tandoori chicken, which she said was juicy, crispy and had a great flavor. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, as we have always in the past.

The garlic naan that we ordered with the meal was soft and had a nice garlic flavor.I met with Neha Srivastav, one of the owners of the restaurant (she and her husband are co-owners).  They took over the struggling restaurant of the same name in 2013.  They bought the business from friends because they were looking for an investment.  Having come to the United States from Nepal in 2001 for college, Neha was educated in nursing and her husband is an engineer.  The couple have two children, a boy age 9 and a girl who is around 2.  It was decided, because Neha took time off from nursing to look after the children, that she would be the one who managed the day to day operations of the restaurant, while her husband would keep his engineering job.  She took classes in food safety and learned a much as she could about running a restaurant, since she had no prior experience.

It was tough going at first because the restaurant did not have a good reputation as far as quality of food.  Neha hired a new chef after the first year and the restaurant slowly turned around. About a year and a half ago, she also added a large banquet hall, which, in addition to creating income for the business, exposed many more people to the new, improved offerings at the restaurant.  The banquet hall is the largest of any of that type in the area, so it attracts many parties, mostly within the Indian community, but also some outside that demographic.  The turnaround has been so successful that she now has hired a manager to run the restaurant, while she works full time managing the banquet hall.

Asked whether her son has shown interest in being part of the family business, she responded with a resoundingly 'yes'!  He has been given small jobs at the site (including providing entertainment and companionship for children eating at the restaurant with their families) and speaks with pride at the quality of the food at “his” restaurant.

Neha speaks with affection about the long time customers who have her cell phone number and call her with restaurant orders and the children who have grown up coming to eat at Bollywood Grill.  She clearly enjoys her role in the business and works hard to maintain the restaurant’s quality and to meet the needs of her customers.  She counts about 60 percent of the restaurant’s customer as regulars, but get some new business from people staying at hotels nearby.  Instead of doing a lot of advertising, she relies on word of mouth of people eating at events at the hall and the restaurant.  She encourages everyone to try Indian food, as there are many variations in the level of heat and the spices used.

I look forward to eating at Bollywood Grill many more times in the future, as I always enjoy my meals there.

Visit:

Bollywood Grill
2333 Main St.
Glastonbury, CT 06033

 

About the Author

Nancy helps to build girls of courage, confidence and character in her work with Girl Scouts.  In her spare time, she loves to eat all kinds of food, hike and spend time with friends and her two cats, Saffron and Basil.

Boca do Brasil Restaurant

The Las Vegas Valley is dotted with strip malls of all shapes and sizes that seemingly drive the functioning of this metropolis. You'll see shops lit up as bright as the lights on Fremont Street with words like “smoke shop” and “laundromat”, or for the slightly more popular centers, Dunkin Donuts, Carl's Jr. and the like. Properties like these have filled in almost every piece of vacant land within the city limits to the point where our authenticity feels like it can be summed up in a credit rating from Standard & Poors. Assimilation into this kind of cityscape is key for any restaurant to survive, and it's because of this that you will find some of the most authentic and memorable eateries within these strip malls.

Tucked away in a tiny plaza with the likes of Enterprise Rent-a-Car and two fast food restaurants, you'll come across Boca do Brasil. The fast food drive-thru’s and U-shape of the center make parking tight, but you’ll soon find out that risking the possibility of being towed is worth it. As you approach the front door, the scents of freshly baked breads and seasoned beef waft past the hinges and reel you in. Roughly three feet in front of the entrance, you hit a short dividing wall with display glass that rises roughly another foot, giving you a front row view of the wood-fired oven and prep tables where the chefs proudly display their work. As you walk into the main dining area, you immediately notice the country’s flair for bright colors that inspire relaxation and happiness.

The walls are painted bright shades of yellow and green with paintings of hard-working fishermen and the amazing landscape that call Brazil home. Even the tablecloths are green, a patriotic nod to the Brazilian flag. A large photo of one of the country’s many waterfalls covers an entire wall next to the restrooms. Subtly, this tells you everything. The “rush-n’-go” atmosphere you find in most American dining establishments has no place here. Like the waterfall, you move at your own pace; enjoying the moment in which you find yourself. This restaurant is merely the creek-bed that guides the way to your cliff where the moments shared between you and your company, like the water, flow freely from dish to dish before dispersing, only to return some time later after yet another cycle of life has passed.

This is an all-Brazilian staff, led by head chef and owner, Angela Mahaeta. During a trip to Las Vegas to visit her son, she decided to move and bring her passion for authentic cuisine with her. Then, in 2011, she opened the doors to what can rightfully be claimed as the only “homemade” Brazilian restaurant here in town. Angela initially started with a menu that incorporated many Greek dishes, characteristic of a population that has such a noticeable presence throughout southeastern Brazil and Sao Paolo. The menu now, however, is comprised of mainly traditional Brazilian dishes with some old favorites thrown in, like the Lamb or Chicken Gyro, Greek Salad with imported Kalamata Olives and feta cheese and lamb-topped “Greek Pizza” with tzatziki sauce. As for that “samba” flavor that most patrons here crave, you’ll certainly find that in plenty. A can of Guarana Antarctica is a terrific way to start everything. This soft drink is a staple of the Brazilian culture. In addition to the 16 other ingredients common to the Amazon Rainforest, it’s main ingredient is the natural caffeine from the fruit of the indigenous Guarana plant.  This fruit, with it’s coffee bean-sized seeds, has been used by the local population for almost 3,000 years. Also, their Coxinha is second to none. A crispy, fried potato dough stuffed with shredded chicken and a brand of cheese named Catupiry, native to Brazil thanks to an Italian immigrant Mario Silvestrini who introduced it in 1911. An additional “must” on the appetizer menu is an order of the Pao de Queijo. Palm-size balls of baked potato dough with a warm, cheesy center that are far more flavorful than they appear at first glance.

Those already familiar with the larger Brazilian steakhouses will recognize Picanha; if not by the name then certainly by the flavor. This distinctive cut of sirloin steak surrounded by a thick strip of crispy fat that requires nothing more than a few cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt as seasoning, if at all. While some may be concerned by the lack of added spices, rest assured that what the cut lacks in seasoning it more than makes up for in beefy flavor with its perfect char that only a real “churrascaria” can do. If it’s closer to lunchtime and you find steak a bit heavy before returning to work, other menu items common throughout Latin America are here. Various filets of beef, chicken or fish can be found a milanesa (breaded and fried) or grelhado (grilled) with traditional rice and black beans on the side. Something else? Carne com Batata is a hearty, stew-like dish with a robust serving of potatoes, carrots and tender beef soaked in a mixture of olive oil, wine and garlic. Or go with the Bife a Cavalo so you can get protein from both the thin cut of grilled beef and the two fried eggs on top. These pair very well with the rice and black beans, by the way.

I learned something new here. Brazilian food is far more influenced by foreign culinary cultures than I would’ve guessed. Menu items like Beef Strogonoff, a Russian-born dish with chunks of sautéed beef and rice covered in a sauce made of a sour cream named “smetana” that’s found in Eastern Europe, the Chicken or Eggplant Parmegiana and various spaguetti (Portuguese spelling) dishes are very popular amongst the locals and have become staples of typical Brazilian dining. Much of this has to do with the authentic ingredients that are used by the staff, many of which you can purchase for yourself directly from the display shelves behind the host counter. This is where you’ll also find their homemade desserts on display. According to the Brazilian Association of Chocolate, Cocoa, Peanut, Candy & Derivatives (yes, Brazil has their own association monitoring the Sweets Market), the average annual consumption of sweets is 2.6 kg per person. Brazilians clearly love their sweets, and Boca do Brasil clearly know how to satisfy someone’s sweet tooth. Their list of desserts changes from day to day, but you’ll always find a native candy wrapped tightly in individual neon pink wrappings on the display shelf, known as Sonho de Valsa. These perfect, palm-size bonbons have a cashew cream surrounded by multiple layers of chocolate and a wafer cone that gives it a crunchy texture that elevates it to dessert perfection.

I’m no stranger to South America. I’ve lived there on more than one occasion and I have friends that are from various countries throughout Latin America. For whatever reason, Brazil is the one country that I’ve never visited. Boca do Brasil may not be in Brazil, but the atmosphere you feel from the moment you walk in is nothing short of pure Brazilian. It’s easy to understand why many Brazilians always appear so relaxed. Lush rainforests, beautiful beaches and attractive people are no longer the only reasons I’m interested in visiting. Knowing how satisfying their cuisine is makes the idea of finally buying my ticket even more probable, and I have Boca do Brasil to thank for that.

Visit

Boca do Brasil
4825 S Fort Apache Rd,
Las Vegas, NV 89147
Tel: 702)655-9999

 

While he now calls Las Vegas home, Darren J. Alvino, II is an avid traveler who has lived, worked and studied on almost every continent. Four years as an Army Ranger, a B.A. in International Studies from The University of Colorado and an boyhood fascination of National Geographic have ingrained in him a deep love & respect for all aspects of our worlds’ cultures, especially their cuisine.

Pine Island Getaway Cafe

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Take a Voyage Down Pine Island

The journey down Pine Island is a sunny scenic route, traversing bridges and palm tree-lined paths, one gets a highlight of Florida's best attributes. The island is a retreat from Florida's more urban regions. Reaching the bakery requires crossing an aquatic preserve filled with dense tropic mangroves and beaches which span the road to Pine Island Getaway café. The main road is lined with easy-going vacationers meandering in and out of pastel colored art shops. The cafe itself is tucked away from the main road of the island, situated next to a small lake. Offering a view the shop is a short distance off from the more tourist dense portions. In this location the cafe shares the same essence of the island - remaining a retreat without being remote.

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Stepping in, the cafe is lined with a counter seeped in sunshine, spanning the wall, windows face a small pine forest. Resort style chairs are arranged under quirky lightbulb lamps. The space is fresh and open despite the storefront being relatively small. But the space was needed to make way for an industrial sized kitchen, the whole place was built to suit the needs of the bakers. The bakery is brand new, opening its doors just over a month ago. "We opened on April, Friday the 13th, which is supposed to be an unlucky day. But it was not so unlucky for us. We had a line out the door."

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The Origins of Pine Island Getaway Cafe

Brothers Thomas and Florent Brunet, originally from the French/Dutch island of St. Martin, then purchased land on Pine Island and constructed a bakery to match their dream. As Thomas explains it, they could have selected a space more central and more costly with a view that didn't parallel what the lake provides. A glance outside makes it clear why this location was the better choice. To the back, a screened in porch offers cozy clusters of seating and the authentic vacation atmosphere that the region is known for.

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The 'getaway' feeling is essential, "we don't like stress, we try to avoid it the most" jokes Florent commenting on the laid back attitude pervasive throughout the community. Originally a weekend trip destination, Florent fell in love. He came from Miami, where he had initially resided in the States while seeking to improve his English. Despite having lived in Miami for five years he found himself a place to anchor his dreams. "I never came back to Miami, I fell in love with it here, the beaches, the lakes, the nature" Florent gestures towards to the idyllic surroundings.

The business climate here is calm, but especially so when juxtaposed with the fierce competition of France. After turning eighteen Thomas left St. Martin and the Caribbean, and spent three years there studying pastry near Bordeaux. He gained exposure to a variety of cooking and management styles from over five bakeries. He describes the culinary work environment in France as harsh and high-strung. "I took the best of all and brought it here ”, cultivating recipes and techniques while abandoning the cutthroat attitude. "Here there are only a few places to compete with-- in France? There's a bakery on every corner. They're saturated.", remarks Florent. But there was a distinct absence of authentic French pastry and cuisine on the island. That fact drew him in, and led him to prompt Thomas to plant their cafe there.

But Pine Island wasn't always on the horizon. Thomas initially envisioned creating a bakery on an entirely different continent. While Florent had remained in St. Martin and then transferred to Miami, his brother moved from Europe to Asia.
Thomas (who appears to be drawn to a variety of islands) journeyed throughout southeastern Asia, where he spent a significant part of time in the Philippines. He originally got the idea to open a cafe while visiting the Pacific island. "The Philippines’ have no French bakeries," Thomas continues with the advantages, "We would have been the only one.".

Shunning stress doesn't signify lack of hard work, Thomas explains. "Some people think we come for vacations, that's not really the case because I'm in the kitchen for twelve hours a day, I go from six am to six pm." . Though the bakery remains a spot for patrons to get away, the Brunet brothers receive no breaks. "There are no vacations. If you come here to work, to make money, that's it. I cannot take holidays...just work, work, work."

Starting a business as an immigrant in the United States is taxing. Thomas recounts the biggest hurdle of opening the operation being obtaining his visa. Between acquiring permits for construction and negotiating with the US embassy there were no shortage of obstacles to getting the bakery off the ground. There is no guarantee that a business proposal will get approval of the embassy. Not having enough experience, not investing enough, or if the office doesn't believe in your project it can be denied. A foreigner working here has to be a creator of jobs and show clear contributions to the community. This adds pressure to do whatever it takes to support the business.


The Kitchen 

During the conversation rapid French interjections emerge from the kitchen, the brothers communicate through the walls to continue work. Despite being closed on Monday production doesn't cease. Making fresh pastries from scratch takes time. On top of that, the particular type of pastries themselves are quite labor intensive. French pastry, being known for its layers and complex flavors, require a lot of effort. Croissants, a popular French classic, take at least two days to prepare. Thomas reveals two lumps of dough on their second day, proofing in massive chillers that keep the butter intact despite the Florida heat.

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But the brothers are no strangers to heat, St. Martin's proximity to the equator make Florida seem moderate in comparison. "Here it can be cold and you see palm trees.", Thomas has fond memories of the warmth of his birthplace. He recalls the joy of the beaches, to which he testifies the Dutch half of the island has more fun. Growing up in the French section provided their introduction into the world of baking.

But baking French recipes with American ingredients can be hazardous. They lament over the horrors of bleached flour and its acrid effects. "You can taste the quality of the ingredients, it shows through. Florent states that his biggest challenge is sourcing ingredients that provide the level of flavor they seek. Not everything is American, with great pride they show off French butter, recently imported. On another counter Dutch chocolate rests, waiting to be incorporated into pain au chocolate. The butter and chocolate are both used in these batches of croissants.

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The pair is quite capable of multitasking, they work together, but separately. Florent prepares two plates as he discusses the best places to source items. Thomas contributes as he whips up meringue for the dessert.

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The Food

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Make no mistake, much more than pastry can be found in Pine Island Getaway Cafe. The focus of the cafe is directed equally towards the meals and the pastry. The pastries rotate with a variety of French treats. Serving unfamiliar tarts, chocolate éclairs, flan, and mille feuille has posed some challenges. But the use of samples quickly puts any qualms to rest.

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I am beyond eager to see what has been prepared for me. To ensure that we would have time for the interview I've been invited to dine on a Monday, when the cafe is closed. Periodically throughout our visit, potential customers approach the door. Thomas greets each one of them apologizing for the inconvenience, they reassure him they will be returning. He even sends one particularly passionate woman off with a few goodies.

Because they are closed they offered to make a special meal and dessert, asking my preferences. Having a deep love for all French food after my own experiences of working in a bakery and limited preferences I tell them to surprise me.

We make our selections from an array of high quality coffee drinks, as well as a variety of beverages such as juice. Florent prepares an iced latte, offering: almond milk, soy milk, and whipped cream as options. Returning to the front of house, Thomas brings out our meal, which he informs us is the Vol Au Vent Forestier.

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The plate consists of two main elements. There was a simple salad with mixed organic greens, sliced tomatoes, freshly shaved cheese and an olive oil based dressing. It was light and paired perfectly with the Vol au Vent. The Vol Au Vent Forestier had a perfectly crisped flaky puff pastry base topped by chicken and mushrooms prepared in a crème white wine sauce. The texture of the pastry is a result of a dough folded with no shortcuts, each paper-thin layer present. The richness of the sauce, the butter of the pastry, and the chicken, is elevated by the simplicity of the salad. The freshness speaks to the European ideals of high quality local ingredients. A portion that appeared moderate was very filling, but so deeply satisfying that one would forget they had another round of food coming. After cleaning and clearing our plates we advance to dessert.

 

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We're presented two toasted meringue swans sitting atop a glossy pool of lemon custard. These avian-esque edibles are their lemon tarts. The swans are made of a decadent marshmallow-y Italian meringue. The custard is smooth, full of citrus flavor and encased within a firm buttery crust. Every bite is consumed and we're left feeling full and content.

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Pine Island Getaway Cafe is the culmination of cross continental influences. It is the result of adventitious events guided by a vision and dedication. The brothers' roots in St. Martin, time in France, and inspiration found in the Philippines come together, expanding the palate of the community. The Brunet brothers welcome a challenge, they are aware continuing will not be a simple task. They await, earnest to serve and share with their new neighbors.

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Visit

Pine Island Getaway Cafe
Address: 5281 Doug Taylor Circle.
Saint James City, FL
Phone: 239.283.3602

 

From the Author:

"Some of the biggest elements that comprise my identity are my passion for politics and activism. That focus stems from my position as a queer, biracial, first-generation American. I am interested in exposing disparity within our food systems and developing sustainable solutions to food scarcity. Captured by the concept of 'critical eating', I explore an intersection of anthropology and economics. This delves into the relationship between agriculture and food production. Part of my approach consists on educating consumers on the mechanics of how we provide for ourselves. My intentions are to improve conditions and cultivate an appreciation for those who feed us. I hope contributions to Uncle Sam's will help towards the goal of uniting communities around a common table."

Authors Blog

Cazadores Restaurante Mexicano  

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THE LOCATION

The first thing I noticed when walking into Cazadores was the brightly colored walls. They resembled the vibrant and lively streets of Mexico. The restaurant itself is conveniently located, tucked on the right side of the road in a slightly rural area lined with greenery.

Easily accessible with a car, it boasts a peaceful tranquility from hectic city life; but is only a five minute drive away from Tyngsboro town in Massachusetts, where activities  such as the cinema and mall are located.

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MEXICAN CUISINE

I was especially intrigued when hearing that the owners themselves were not from Mexico, but rather another South American country, Colombia. Hispanic culture is similar on the surface, although historical traditions differ. Countries residing in the continent are characterized by welcoming, family-oriented natives, warm tropical weather, lively music, and delicious food. Mexico is no exception. The cuisine from this region is fresh, delicious, vibrant, and spicy. Mexican food has become a staple of Western cuisine, and with good reason.

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Dishes are distinguished by and many include a staple of meat (mostly chicken, beef, or pork), cheese, maize (the shell), beans, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, jalapeno, and various spices and herbs. The country’s most widely known dishes include tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and tortillas. These are often offered with the option of flour or corn tortillas. The gluten-intolerant need not worry!

INSIDE THE RESTAURANT 

This family restaurant has traditional paintings on the walls, giving a good idea of Mexican culture. Not too big or small in size, the first floor consisted of the dining area, with finely crafted wooden tables and chairs. The stairs lead to a dimly lit, furnished, and pleasantly decorated basement area. This was the bar, lined with bar stools and booths, serving the finest drinks originating from Mexico.

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MY ORDER

I ordered the “Tour de Mexico” made for two.  It came with six tacos of varying meats - steak, chicken, and shrimp. Two chimichangas - beef and chicken, and two tamales. Delicious yellow rice that had seasoned green beans, carrots, and peas served alongside creamy beans were the perfect starter for this traditional meal. The plate was lined with guacamole, sour cream,  lettuce, and tomato, most likely for the tacos and chimichangas that were to come. I noted the flavors of the rice and beans complimented each other very well. Everything so far was just the right amount of spicy, not too much or too little. (I do not do well with spicy food.)

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Next came the rest of the main entree, plated aesthetically. The tacos, chimichangas, and tamales came with 3 dipping sauces. When I asked, the server informed me they were tomatillo, mango habanero, and plain habanero.  My companion made the mistake of dipping one of his tacos in the habanero a little too much, prompting him to need water. Note: A little goes a long way with those pepper hot sauces.

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Overall, the food was served on time and was absolutely delicious. As mentioned, I am not one that eats spicy food too often, but the Mexican cuisine at Cazadores was the perfect amount of savory and spicy. The flavors were balanced extremely well, and the food perfectly seasoned. The tacos were light, with a doughy tortilla, and the chicken was chewy and zesty. Coupled with the guacamole, tomato, and lettuce the tacos and chimichangas were a delightful take on Mexican food. The tamales were smooth and cheesy.

THE FAMILY BEHIND THE MAGIC
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The Millan family had been dreaming of opening a restaurant for a long time. (Pictured above) Monica Arango-Millan, 35, Heidy Arango-Millan, 33, Luz Millan, 55, Brian Millan-Finnerty, 19, Jose Arango-Millan, 30.

Luz Millan came to the land of opportunity in 1995 - leaving behind her family in Colombia. From Nashua, New Hampshire, she would send money back to support her family. She worked and made enough money until she could afford to bring her children to the United States in 1997. “It was challenging, a very hard time not only for me, but for them,” Luz recalls, “We paid the price to be here.” Assimilating to a new culture is never an easy task, and Luz had to learn a new language, and at times worked three jobs.

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Cazadores is fairly new and opened to the public on November 19th, 2017,  The family goes back to Colombia periodically, and whenever they come back, they are grateful to be in a land where they can make a living off of sharing the delicious food of their hispanic heritage. Despite being Colombian, Luz wanted to keep the restaurant as authentically Mexican as possible. One of the chefs she hired knows his grandmother’s Mexican recipes by heart. In the early stages, furniture from Mexico was imported, and a large, beautiful mural was painted on a dining room wall (pictured above). Each family member has their own role, putting together what Luz calls “a great team” that is stronger when they are together.

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Visit:

Cazadores Restaurante Mexicano
130 Middlesex Rd
Tyngsboro, Massachusetts
(978) 226-5702

Tania is a 20 year old university student. She considers herself a dreamer, believer, and animal lover. She has an affinity for travel, and believes you can learn more from immersing yourself in different cultures than you can from anything else. She embraces diversity, and feels that food is the best means of cultural expression.

Mandalay Restaurant & Café

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I came upon an opportunity to experience Burmese food for the first time and I was not disappointed.

Brief History of Myanmar

Myanmar’s government was under the control of the military junta from 1962 to 2015, and they renamed the country Myanmar in 1989. Myanmar’s neighbor countries are Thailand, China, Bangladesh, Laos and India.

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Coming to America

In 1988 demonetization wiped out most people’s savings and riots broke out in the country. The political uprising resulted in the military killing over three thousand civilians and thousands fleeing the country, including Saw Myint and his family. Saw, now seventy three years old, is the patriarch of the Myint family. In 1989 they arrived in Silver Spring, where a friend helped them out. Saw worked for the U.S. government ten years prior, so he knew the country fairly well.

Mandalay, from Myanmar to Maryland

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After settling in and making this country their new home, Saw’s three sons came to him and asked about the prospect of starting a family business, thus allowing them to apply for their own green card when they aged out. At the time, there was a donut shop in College Park for sale, which the Myint family decided to buy. Saw asked his wife, Hla Hme, to cook at the donut shop in order to expand the menu to include Burmese food. They later decided to get rid of the donut portion of the restaurant and serve Burmese food exclusively. This led to the establishment of Mandalay Restaurant & Café, named after the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar. It was costly to get the restaurant up and running. The Myint family used their savings to buy necessities every month. Fortunately, business picked up quickly once the restaurant opened up; a lot of people were willing to come no matter the weather. Saw felt relief seeing a full house on the first day they opened and knew they would survive. What helped drive in more customers was serendipitous publicity, all unsolicited and free. The restaurant was featured in newspapers and on the radio.

In 2003 the restaurant moved to its current location, Bonifant Street in downtown Silver Spring. Although it is a multiethnic area, this is the only Burmese restaurant in Maryland. It’s a family-owned and operated business. The Myint family includes first, second and third generation Americans of Burmese origin. Everyone pitches in. On the floor nearly every day you can see Joe and Aung, Saw’s sons. Hla Hme runs a tight ship in the kitchen. Saw works in the front, and enjoys chatting with customers and friends who are regulars. They also have a full service bar and TV.

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Tin (Saw’s nephew)

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Saw and Hla Hme

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Latt (Saw’s daughter-in law)

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Joe (Saw’s eldest son)

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Hla Hme (Saw’s wife)

Authentic Burmese Food

Patrons from different ethnic origins enjoy the food at Mandalay. Any dish can be made as spicy as you like, but even without the "hot," every dish is full of flavor. The taste of the food is influenced by Myanmar’s neighbor countries—Thailand, Indian, China—but the food has a distinct Burmese taste of its own. The food is authentic, but a lot less oil is used than food served in Myanmar. Americans who visited Myanmar said the food is better here, without all that oil. The food is usually served with fresh ingredients, often including vegetables and tropical fruits. There are soups, curries, stir-fried noodles, meat and seafood dishes. I enjoyed eating the Burmese samosas (potato, onion, green peas), mango salad (green mango, cabbage, onion, carrots and Burmese dressing), Nyat KaukSwe Gyaw (flat rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, bean sprouts, lettuce, and ground peanuts). MoHingar soup is Myanmar’s national soup. Peanuts give the soup its brownish tint. It has rice noodles, pureed catfish, and a side of fried zucchini, to be absorbed in the soup and/or dipped in sauce consisting of lime juice and chili pepper. OhnNo KaukSwe soup are egg noodles with chicken strips in creamy coconut soup; naturally sweet because of the coconut. Grounded chana dal beans give it the yellow color. I also ate one of the vegetarian options, soft tofu sautéed with sour mustard, onion and fresh cilantro. It is salty when eaten alone, but mixed with rice gives it a balanced flavor. There are two vegan dessert options, the sticky rice with brown sugar and coconut and coconut ice cream. Shweji is Myanmar’s national dessert, made with cream of wheat, coconut cream, sugar, eggs, milk, raisins, and topped with poppy seeds. This dessert is so good I had two servings of it! Saw said it converted one customer who disliked cream of wheat as a kid. Mandalay’s schweji won the 2009 Washingtonian award for being “reason number four to live in Washington D.C.” Each customer has their own favorite dish, but no one dislikes anything, according to an informal survey. Mandalay has received a number of accolades over the years from prestigious newspapers such as The Washington Post, Washingtonian, The Gazette. Zagat and TripAdvisor also gave “excellent” marks. The food has been described as “lighter than most Indian dishes but more flavorful than Thai.”

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MoHingar soup with fried zucchini

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Tofu MoteNyinChin Gyaw

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OhnNo KaukSwe soup

dessert

Schweji

Giving Back to MyanmarAfter nearly thirty years in the U.S., the Myint family still thinks of their home country often and regularly gives back. “Gotta do something” is Saw’s motto. In 2001 Saw helped establish a local health clinic for mid-wives to deliver babies in five villages, and helped provide safe drinking water. In 2008 a cyclone hit, the worst natural disaster in recorded history of Myanmar. The restaurant raised $17,000 to give to those most affected by the cyclone. In 2011, $70,000 was raised and donated to people most affected by the floods.

Next Chapter

After nearly twenty years, Mandalay Restaurant & Café is firmly rooted as a successful business more than ever. The Myint family thought of what they could do after their lease is up next year so they could be more financially independent. Saw’s son, Aung, proposed the family have an additional restaurant, a salad restaurant similar to sweetgreen and Chopt, but serving distinct Burmese salads. He said, “Our salad is different from any salad.” This restaurant, Bandoola Bowl, will be located in Georgetown. They will mainly serve an array of salads, some of which will be fixed recipes and some which customers can choose their own ingredients. Mandalay will still be in business but relocate to D.C. next year. If you have not had Burmese food, I highly recommend you do. If you are fortunate enough, may your first experience be at Mandalay Restaurant & Café.

My thanks to Saw Myint for his hospitality, treating me and my family to an assortment of Burmese dishes. I am also grateful to him for opening up and sharing the information contained in this article.

Visit:

Mandalay Restaurant & Café
930 Bonifant Street
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 585 0500