Aung Myint has wanted to open a Burmese fast-casual shop ever since his family moved their restaurant Mandalay from College Park to Silver Spring 15 years ago. “But at the time everybody was like, ‘I don’t know if we can survive just with salads,'” Myint recalls. “And then you see how Sweetgreen and Chopt turned out to be.”
Now, finally, Myint is realizing that goal. He opens Bandoola Bowl, a fast-casual joint devoted to Burmese salads, today in Georgetown. The restaurant’s name pays homage to two national heroes in Burma: General Maha Bandoola (or Bandula), who led Burmese forces against the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War of the early 1800s, and an elephant named after the military leader who helped Burma defeat Japan during World War II.
The menu includes popular dishes from Mandalay, where about 35 percent of sales come from salads. If you’re not familiar with Burmese salads, don’t think leafy greens. The salads at Bandoola Bowl ($10 to $13) come with a cabbage base and are livened up with crunchy vegetables, herbs, fried garlic or shallots, and a citrusy Burmese dressing with (or without) fish sauce. The cuisine shares flavors with other Southeast Asian countries, like Vietnam and Thailand.
Among the best-sellers to cross over from Mandalay are roasted pork, mango, and shredded ginger salads. Other bowls center around green beans, green papaya, grilled chicken, or steamed shrimp. Diners can then add on extra proteins for $1 to $3. In addition, look out for specials like coconut curry chicken soup or shweji, a Burmese semolina cake with coconut milk, raisins, and poppy seeds.
The one famed Burmese dish that won’t be on the menu is pickled tea leaf salad. “It still has to be ordered overseas and getting things out of Burma still isn’t the easiest option right now,” Myint says. He doesn’t want to put something on the menu that he can’t offer consistently.
Bandoola Bowl is one of two Burmese restaurants opening this spring. The team behind Union Market’s Toli Moli will debut Thamee, a full-service Burmese restaurant serving catfish noodle curry, citrus-stuffed whole fish, and various salads, on H Street Northeast in early May.
Bandoola Bowl. 1069 Wisconsin Ave., NW. 202-758-3184.