- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With my pal Allison, I popped by Mango Tree (929 H Street, NW, 202/408-8100) for what I was promised would be an absolutely amazing lunch. And it’s always nice when the result lives up to the hype.

Particularly where District cuisine is concerned. In a city that is fast becoming a food-lover’s paradise, with ever more and diverse culinary options, the restaurants of the capital live and die by their plates and their reputations.

First up, a refreshing lemonade that was just the right side of sweet for me, but a tad too much so for Allison (she likes to be wrong sometimes). On an unseasonably warm day, it hit the spot alongside water and a Thai iced tea, flushing away any possibilities of dehydration.

Settling in with a warm welcome from GM Thomas Hanson and manager Josh Rosolofonjoa, we were presented a delightful menu to peruse. An amuse-bouche arrived from the chef in the form of a rather unique watermelon salad, with the watermelon seasoned with peanuts for an incredibly interesting meeting of salty and sugary to whet the appetite.

For apps Allison went for the chicken satay and I for the tom yum goong spicy soup of shrimp and mushrooms. It’s a personal favorite, even though, as I typically do, I pushed the mushrooms aside. The soup was tasteful if not particularly spicy. Allison raved about the chicken satay, but its taste, to me, was a bit underwhelming, even with the peanut sauce.

For my main course I went for the spicy minced pork rice served with Thai basil and topped with a wok fried egg. This dish was simply delectable, with the sauce a perfect complement to the tastiness of the chopped pork and the attendant basil. The wok fried egg was a first, but I’m an adventurous eater and thus gave it a whirl. It didn’t add too much — or detract — from the dish overall, but it was something new. I told the rather attentive wait staff to make it spicy but not “oh, hell, I can’t breathe!” level, but to my palate the dish had nary a kick to it. No matter, as it was still delish.

Ever a carnivore, Allison went for the stir-fried hanger steak, served with garlic, Thai basil and chili. I’m glad I went for what I went for, even though hers was as delicately and deliciously prepared and had a taste profile to boot.

Visiting Chef Nongnaphat Panngam, known this side of the world as “Chef Kate,” popped by to check on our bellies, which we assured her were full, but she still had a surprise in store in the form of a desert platter of fresh mango (beyond yummy and seriously refreshing), ice cream and a sticky rice desert. The mangos I hungered after, but Allison was more into the rice desert, which was fine as it didn’t particularly light my fire. The dollop of ice cream had to be consumed briskly in the outdoor June sun.

(FYI, we sat on the outdoor patio, which is great for people-watching on H Street — as well as for the insanely strange video art installation of CityCenterDC — but the sun has a habit of sneaking up on you, requiring us to move to a more shaded table.)

As a hint, to get the most of your experience, try the “Power Lunch,” which offers an appetizer, main and soft beverage for the veritable bargain of $17.

All was right with the world, and I was hesitant to leave for work, but the business of news continues on.

Mango Tree DC is located in the District’s busting CityCenterDC, 929 H Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20268. For more information, visit MangoTreeDC.com or call 202/408-8100 for reservations.

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