|Overall (based on 4 ratings)|
|Broth (flavor, fragrance, clarity)|
|Noodles (texture, clumpiness)|
|Meat (tenderness, quality)|
|Vegetables (variety, freshness)|
This interesting little restaurant specializes in Burmese cuisine., which looks a lot like Vietnamese food with a subtle and delicious injection of Indian spices and ingredients.
To my delight, I recently found out that they also serve Pho. This was sort of a triumphant discovery for me - for the last four years, I have always viewed Bloomington as a Pho wasteland, and yet, here was this place all along, hidden under the banner of Burmese Cuisine.
The Pho here is expensive - it will cost you about 9 bucks (-5% when paying in cash). If you order the beef, you might be disappointed; instead of delicate pieces of eye-round steak, you get fatty pieces of brisket.
This aside, the broth is sensational. The sweet flavor of Chinese five-spice is detectable but not overpowering, and the meatiness and heartiness of the liquid shows all the signs of a carefully prepared homemade beef stock. Does anything else really matter? As an afterthought, the noodles are perfect: thin, chewy, and generously served; also, unlike many Indiana Pho joints which use thick Pad Thai noodles in their broth, Mandalay uses the correct-sized Vietnamese noodles.
The Pho is served with an odd assemblage of toppings: aside from the traditional bean sprouts and jalapenos, you get cilantro instead of basil, red onions, and lemon instead of lime. The sauces are correctly served in nondescript bottles (some Indiana Pho places give you the sauces in their original store-bough bottles -tacky!), and most importantly, a small dish is provided for mixing sauces and dipping meat.
I usually go for the chicken Pho, which, although less traditional, is a superior option to the fatty beef. The chicken pieces are moist, tender, and abundant.
All in all, this is a great, great find for Bloomington. The thing I miss most about my hometown Seattle is the ubiquity of Pho restaurants. Mandalay, although expensive, is a blessing - the Pho is top-quality, and definitely worth the trip.
Best Pho I've tasted so far in Indiana. Although he beef was fatty, the broth was very flavorful and the noodles were perfectly cooked. The place was full of asians, which is always a sign of good Pho.
I will verify what Tom so eloquently said. The first time I ordered, the chicken was a little fatty and the noodles just a little clumpy, but (and this is the important part) the second time I went in, I asked if I could swap out the meat for extra noodles (I just don't eat that much meat). The cook came out and offered to personalize my pho any way I liked it! I asked for, and was given, tofu at no extra charge, and was offered to have some veggies thrown in as well! The cook said that was the way she usually ate it. And it was more than delicious. Also, and I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but if you accidentally over-do it on the spice, they make a great avocado milk shake that mellows out your tongue wonderfully.
This may be the best pho in Bloomington...as there is really no pho in Bloomington. The broth was bland. The small serving of beef was simply a few scant pieces of flank steak, none of the more interesting cuts like brisket or tripe. Neither was not served with the traditional sides of sweet basil and lime, but rather cilantro, red onion, and lemon. On the bright side, the noodles were perfectly cooked. I would go here again, but next time I'll try the Burmese food.