Thursday, 11 August 2011

[Restaurant - Burmese] Meh-ndalay; Mandalay of Edgware

 Location - Edgware, London [UK]

So it was, in another fit of boredom, and in defiant unawareness of the tense atmosphere to the riots I had no idea were occurring, I had decided to engage in another day of calorific indulgence, seemingly with little purpose, theme or scope other than to eat. Lots. Sounds reason enough to me. As a result, I decided to start with a lunch, at an eatery whose cuisine is based on a country who has experienced recently documented turmoil and unrest. Of which again, I was completely oblivious to. Ignorance, and food. My guiding lights. 

Once I had found word of a Burmese restaurant I was immediately intrigued, for beyond giving name to a species of cat that I once had and oh so loved, and nothing it was located "somewhere in Asia", I essentially had a total knowledge-void of anything of significance with regards to Burma/Myanmar. Thus for, I would need to eat my way into some knowledge. Despite being located on Edgware Road. The BAD side of Edgware Road, though distinction is perhaps redundant. Unfortunately, efforts to research into Burmese cuisine were thwarted predominantly due to a lack of actually knowing what to search for, with most of the translated dishes on the menu turning up little. It would seem the internet draws up scarce amount of information on food from a country steeped in the political unrest of Burma for some reason. How very rude of them. It would seem also that attempts to search using the native language were also thwarted by the funkiest written language ever. Too much effort required to download the requisite font packs soon found my patience being outlasted by the 5 minutes of download time or so. 

Thus for I would jump into this blindly. Before that though, Google Street View the area, as despite never having ventured there, I had envisioned "Bad" Ghetto Pre-Flyover Edgware as essentially a lower Baghdad type scenario. Or Croydon on a Saturday night. So it would seem. Lovely. And so I journeyed, and searched for parking for around a millennia, which was all good and well as it would mean I would have the hunger required to digest all that was planned to increase the population of cholesterol buddies in my arteries today. 
~ Starter ~
- Calabash Fritters

Seemingly a Burmese speciality, and the fact that anything seems to be frittered, it had to be sampled. Not that any excuse is required for fritters. Fried batter. Sold. Calabash was chosen as I had somehow assumed it would be similar to Bitter Gourd. However, I was left rather disappointed. Despite having a more impressive tan than my solitary isolation-abandoning of brown skin colour, they were not all that crisp, and most importantly, have any particular taste. Despite the presence of what seemed to be curry powder and assorted supposed-to-flavour ingredients within the fritters, I just could not sense anything. The sauces did not help, being a light tamarind [I think] that basically displaced the fritters' flavour with its own, the commercial grade sweet chilli sauce that achieved likewise, and the weak soy sauce, which actually did help a little, if only adding a gentle saltiness.

As such, these cholesterol buddies would not be accompanied by the usual deep-fried rightness I was expecting, which is a shame. The buddies have lost purpose now. Other than to kill me with no benefits.

~ Main Course ~
- Chicken & Noodles in Coconut Curry

Opting for the most traditional "recommendation", mostly as every other dish sounded like largely the exact same permutation of a core dish with just a token changed ingredient, I just required that it did not contain rice. I ate enough rice at Hyper Japan to last me. Infinitesimally. Obviously that would mean noodles, a divergence of which Moses could not recreate. I immediately rued the waiters' denying me of na'an. The massive plate arrived, first sip of the curry and. Well, not much. Rather watered down curry, with very little spice, though with an always pleasant coconut note, as it should. Otherwise it was rather light in body, spice, and everything nice. Squeezing in a bit of the lemon wedge ironically added a dose of acidity that perked up the curry a little bit, seeming a bit lost in purpose though beyond such. Much like the search for the chicken, all measly two crumbs or so of it, in an effort to not devour all those noodles. 

I was not amused. Dessert better leave me in a coma.

~ Dessert ~
- Sanwin Makin

Considering that throughout the day I would be having a further metric tonne of miscellaneous desserts and artery clogging niceties, the dessert choice at Mandalay was of utmost importance. Which was just as well that there was not ample choice, though the two main ones of interest intrigued. In the end the Sanwin Makin won me over with its mere mention of coconut. Despite being microwaved, with the odd multi-temperature sensation of the semolina cake, it was rather enjoyable. The coconut milk was just a tad too sweet, but forgiven for being coconut. You can never criticise coconut. Evrar.

The semolina cake itself was reasonable as well, not being overly greasy regardless of the evident infusion of ghee diffusing into the coconut milk with every spoonful taken. A subtly delightful dessert, reasonable in portion as well. Finished to the last drop. 


The experience overall, all things considered was not as abysmal as the war-torn side of town I was located in. I may have overestimated preconceptions slightly on the basis showed forth by vastly superior picture-taking than mine by various Bloggers and lyrical, overblown praise, not that I had entered with much in the way of expectation. Especially not when receiving the reality call on entering. The food was the predominant disappointment, in that there was just a lack of flavour in the savoury courses, which just did not recreate any notion of authentic or traditional flavours. Not that I know what the flavours of the country are and that I would think typically restaurants in a foreign setting can find it difficult to accurately recreate national flavours, even though the notion of accuracy of flavour is fraught with the paradox that is subjectivity. And such.

Despite this though, it must also be considered that for the price I was reasonably satisfied, and being in the area of question, what with the Coalition Forces dividing out rations to the Northern side of Edgware Road, only so much can be expected. Not that I actually knew what was to be expected. So I remain curiously just as oblivious as before. 

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