Farewell to Mandalay, The End of an Era
June 19, 2006
Sigh, it's true. After over a decade of serving some of the best spice route cuisine in all of Seattle, our beloved Mandalay is up for sale. This is not another Wallingford Thai restaurant that's crashed & burned, but a new path for our friends Erik & Janny who are moving north to Canada to embark on new culinary adventures with their family.
Needless to say, this place changed my life as my now husband spun out dishes here for six years before I steered him towards the no-more-sane career as a wine rep (but the hours are definitely better.) I camped out many a night at the bar, peering into the open kitchen watching the behind the scenes antics & lapping up their incredible Laksa. Since I often dined alone, the kitchen would whip up "tapas-style" portions for me so I could sample the nightly specials--everything from Taro Spun Blue Marlin to Malaysian Rujak Salad & Malawi Tempura Figs.
Sitting there, watching the chefs dip their ladles into dozens of intense hand-ground pastes & curries, learning to lean over the perfumed steam of my bowl to open my senses to each flavor, I began to have an awakened appreciation for the complexities that come from food that has true soul.
I've watched an Indian family order a whole table of Sri Lankan Blacken Lamb Chops partially because this is one of the few places in town where even the staff rarely eats anything higher than two-star because it's just that damn hot. Sweat dripping off his forehead, the proud young man swept his mother (fresh off the plane) into the kitchen to meet the chefs because she couldn't believe a guy from California & a guy from Puebla, Mexico no less, could cook like this.
Family ties aside, this place slays Wild Ginger for regionally authentic Burmese, Indian, & Southeast asian cuisine--in fact, dishes have been known to pop up on W.G.'s menu after being scouted out at Mandalay, yup.
Their wine list is fabulous with some of the most poetic descriptors (penned by Erik) on any menu--even I couldn't dream these things up! Take for example his notes for a 2000 Brundlmayer, Gruner Veltliner:
"If you're okay with Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blancs and are truly in search of a food / wine epiphany try this Gruner Veltliner. Let this Austrian march across your table with a sweet blooming dandelion, white pepper bouquet of security before the surprise attack in your mouth delivered on steel toe boots of gresh chives, green citrus melon, and stony flint."
Of course, I'm a sucker for people who have a poetic appreciation for wine... And even though their list of Rieslings is to die for, Erik is open to wine appreciators bringing in truly special bottles & keeps corkage cheap. We all sat down & enjoyed this sinfully rich Clos Nelin (the white Priorat from Clos Mogador) over the course of our last meal there, making it a doubly memorable experience.
I plan on spending a long & lavish evening here on my birthday next month, but in the meantime I hope to go as often as I can. But before this turns into another trendy eatery for every-increasing condo-dwellers of Wallingford, please, please go & indulge yourselves in some of the best global cuisine Seattle has to offer. Tell 'em Catherine (er, Ms. Proust) sent you, & spread the word!
1411 N. 45th Street Seattle (206)633-0801
Very nice sentiments! I'll miss this place, too, and now you've personalized it even more. I'm starting to feel some growing nostalgia for things the way they were around here (can't beat those '70s--The Last Exit on Brooklyn, The Blue Moon, and Cafe Sabika!). I'm not sure what's happening, but "trendy" and "condo-dwellers" strike me as operative words (add "Starbucks," too). I'm sure you'll keep us honest, though, Ms. Proust, and linked to words, people, and places that share integrity, poetry, and soul. Are you up to it? Have a great birthday celebration!
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Posted by: jeremy scott shoes | May 11, 2013 at 01:15 AM
Was having a nostalgic moment and remembering my beloved Pineapple Panang and Taro Root curries. ~sigh~ Do you know if Erik & Janny ever contemplated a cookbook? I'd buy one in a minute.
Posted by: Ann | March 12, 2019 at 05:13 PM
Ann, I just saw your comment!!! The blog's been dormant for a while, but it's amazing to know that there are folks out there that are still passionate about Mandalay's flavors.
Since I married Ken O'Hara, one of the chefs, I still have the pleasure of enjoying dishes such as the Pineapple Panang Curry. Since I'm the writer in the family, I certainly have tossed around the idea of a cookbook.
I'm going to share your enthusiasm with Janny & Ken! You never know...
Posted by: Ms.Proust | April 08, 2019 at 09:55 PM