Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mango Tree Brunch Review

The Thai, American Full English

Should Richard Sandoval ever decide to hang up his chef coat, he'd likely make a wonderful travel agent. His culinary "mini-empire" features several different cuisines (Latin-American, Latin-Asian, Mexican) and I couldn't wait to experience his take on Thai cooking. Mango Tree opened in January, and recently started serving brunch. Thai food + brunch + Richard Sandoval = must-eat dining. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to add up those kind of ingredients. Call in my reservation.

Mango Tree is tucked inside the spectacular CityCenterDC, a sprawling, upscale wonderland near the Washington Convention Center. The Center's not quite finished yet; so there's still a bite of excitement (a la Christopher Columbus or Ferdinand Magellan) to be had, while exploring its many shops and restaurants.

Vegetable Spring Rolls

In terms of being upscale-ready, Mango Tree is and then some. It begins with a stylish street-level bar, followed by a host station atop a flight of stairs (elevator too) and then Mango Tree's large, elegant dining room. It's all very romantic. Soothing decor... Brown tables with leather club chairs, and bold red banquettes. Dangling above, beautiful mirrored light fixtures (shaped like birds-in-flight) and atop it all... industrial fixtures, painted jet black. The music's sexy too (Koop's "Strange Love," etc..) A for atmosphere.

Northeastern Style Thai Sausage

Service is quick & attentive; but perhaps better suited to dinner than brunch. Regardless, you certainly won't want for anything. The brunch menu is (as with all Sandoval restaurants) exciting and varied. I'd love to see a few more starters: There's three for now, including a Street Style "Pork-in-a-Bag" with Thai Sticky Rice. Delicious as it sounds, I didn't want to pile on before an ambitious Thai/American/British "full" breakfast. Instead, I opted for MT's Vegetable Spring Roll, stuffed with cabbage, carrots, mushroom & vermicelli noodles with sweet chili sauce and a vibrant salad on the side.

Lychee Bellini

It's advertised as "smaller," for only $8; but truth be told, one could easily get stuffed with not one, not two, not three, not even four but five generous spring rolls. Mine were perfectly fried and nicely flavored; and don't be afraid to ask for more chili sauce (after all, you have to dip five rolls.) Lucky for me, I was able to wash mine down with a Lychee Bellini (champagne, lychee purée, mint, $10.) I'm very fond of lychees; and I can now proudly say I've had a mimosa version. One other caveat: I love the water glasses with their extra wide mouths (details, details.)

Those in search of a traditional American/English breakfast should be prepared for something decidedly different when ordering The Thai, American Full English (odd name.) The elements are familiar (bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausage and toast) but uniquely prepared. For starters, Northeastern Style Thai Sausage (served on a separate plate) looks and tastes nothing like the boring pork links and patties you're probably used to. I'm a big fan, although I'd prefer mine with a little more heat/spices. The bacon (thick & crispy) is more standard, but a tad salty for my taste. Hash Browns are both creative and delicious (crispy on top, incredibly tender underneath and superbly seasoned throughout.) The Grilled Mushroom is quite meaty (almost like a shark steak) and the eggs, wok-fried (a bit too severe for me.) Last but not least... Fried Bread, which takes some getting used to. On one hand, it needs no butter or jam, since it's "naturally" oily. On the other, it could be too greasy for some. Me? I'd prefer to trade them in for a couple more hash browns.

Differences aside, one doesn't visit a place like Mango Tree for something too familiar. It's a place to try something new, something sexy. Salmon Scrambled Eggs. Bacon, Bourbon and Apple Pancakes. Now we're talkin'! My advice: Promise to be bold/daring. You can always visit IHOP tomorrow (shudder.) I can't wait to revisit for dinner; so I can try dishes like Beef Cheek Curry, Seafood Tom Yum and Crab Meat-Fried Rice... over an extended/leisurely stay, so there's room/time for MT's Mango Cheesecake, which I sadly forgot to order earlier today.