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Located in San Francisco's Richmond District, Mandalay's brightly colored signs can be seen through even the foggiest of the city's summer nights. Nestled between 5th and 6th Avenues on California Street, this authentic Burmese and Mandarin restaurant offers a variety of tantalizing options that both vegetarians and carnivores will appreciate.
On weeknights there is rarely a wait to be seated, and tables are spaced at a comfortable distance in a warm, homey atmosphere. Once diners are seated, the wait staff immediately brings over hot tea to enjoy while browsing the menu.
Appetizers at Mandalay include samusa, pot stickers (meat or vegetarian), chicken satay and balada. My dining companion and I started with the balada, a crisp and comforting fried pancake accompanied by a mild yet aromatic curry dipping sauce. After the appetizer we moved onto a salad. Choices include tea leaf salad, ginger salad and green papaya salad. We tried the mango salad, which has strong citrus flavors with a hint of cilantro. The salad also included fried onion chips which, at times, overshadowed the other flavors.
Mandalay's entrées include noodle soups; seafood dishes; vegetarian dishes; dishes with chicken, beef, pork, or lamb; and fried noodle and rice dishes. For our first entrée, we wanted one of the many plates featuring prawns, but how could we choose between mango prawns, basil prawns, rainbow prawns - which include mangos, pineapples and an assortment of vegetables - and the other various selections? We eventually decided on the walnut prawns, which featured nine large prawns fried and coated in a coconut cream sauce. The plate was sprinkled with honey-coated walnuts and both the prawns and the walnuts were served on a bed of crisp rice noodles. The prawns were succulent and meaty, and the creamy sweetness of the sauce complimented their flavor, which was contrasted by the crisp rice noodle bed. This dish, while somewhat gluttonous, was worth every heavenly bite.