December 05, 2007
Exterior of Mandú Restaurant, Plaza Galerías
Plaza Galerías 360
As vegetarians in the United States, Shawn and I usually found Asian restaurants to be a pretty safe bet when dining out. At best, they were among our favorite places (Taki's and Tra Ling's) and at worst, they offered the same four or five ubiquitous, boring, yet meat-free, dishes. I can't tell you how many chefs seem to think that vegetarians not only avoid meat, but also variety.
When we moved to Guadalajara and tried out a couple of Asian restaurants, we were shocked to find that they usually did not offer any vegetarian dishes at all. I do not mean that they didn't have tofu dishes. I mean they didn't even have any dishes that consisted of just vegetables. When we finally did find our little slice of heaven, they understood our plight. They said that their tapatio customers would order something like beef with broccoli and pick out all the strips of beef, leaving anything green behind to be dumped into the trash. When that restaurant closed, we felt like we'd lost the only restaurateurs in town that understood us. It was a dark day indeed.
That left us with the sushi restaurants that serve kappa maki, avocado rolls, vegetable tempura, stir-fried vegetables and vegetable fried rice, but it seems like almost all the sushi restaurants offer these five dishes and only these five dishes, with very few exceptions. We like sushi, so we do go out for it often. Yet it seems that Japanese food, and particularly the sushi side of Japanese food, is one of the few socially-acceptable ethnic foods that the people of Guadalajara will dare to eat. It is by far the Asian cuisine most represented here, with Chinese being a distant second. Then all the other contenders - Korean, Mongolian, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian - simply do not exist here. At least, that's what we thought.
The discovery of Mandú, through a friend of Joseph and Larry, did not drastically change the situation for us, but it did offer us a couple of new dishes that we liked and can enjoy now and again when we want vegetarian Asian food that isn't sushi. (Actually, their sushi is pretty good too, and they have a chamoy roll that emulates the pickled plum roll, ume maki.)
Sushi at Mandú
Shawn likes their bibimbap, a Korean dish that they will make for him with tofu instead of meat. Unfortunately, the tofu they use is always the salad kind that comes in vacuum-packed aseptic boxes, so the best they can do with it is to put uncooked slices on top of the dish. Still, it's rare to find tofu of any kind in a restaurant here, so he is happy to get it. Personally, I don't like fried eggs, unless they're scrambled first. On my first trip to Mandú, I ordered the bibimbap and asked for my egg scrambled, and it arrived with a fried egg diced up and sprinkled around the bowl. Not exactly what I asked for, but even if it had been, I wasn't all that crazy about it. Not that it wasn't well-prepared. It should be noted that their execution is quite good with everything I've had there. I just didn't like bibimbap all that much.
The next time I went there, I got the Thai noodles, and asked them to hold the meat. They did, and the noodles were very good. When we went last week with Joseph and Larry, I got the udon with vegetables and tofu, and it was the best thing I've had at Mandú yet. I think next time I'll get that again, but I'll not get it with the bland tofu. It would be better if it were just noodles and vegetables. They also have a dish that is breaded fried cheese on skewers, served with a chipotle sauce.
Interior of Mandú
The first time we went there, we went with Charles, and he asked to see the chef. The chef came out and Charles explained that we didn't eat beef, pork or chicken, nor even seafood. He asked if the chef could make something vegetarian, perhaps something that wasn't even on the menu, for us. He said that he would be sure to prepare our food vegetarian, and he suggested the bibimbap to us. That's when we tried that. He then said that he had a cookbook at home with many vegetarian Asian dishes, and that he'd work with it to come up with some other dishes for our next visit.
The next time I went, I went with Charles again, and he asked to see the chef. He asked if the chef remembered us, and he did. Charles went through the routine again about all the things I don't eat, and asked what the chef might be able to make for me. The chef asked if I'd had the bibimbap. I had. As I mentioned, they didn't really make it like I'd asked. I didn't really want that again. He suggested the Thai noodles that were on the menu, but he could make them with vegetables instead of meat. I figured anything Thai with noodles has to be good, so I decided to try it. It was good. Yet I was getting the feeling that if I didn't get that, we were going to start running out of options. I did not get the impression that he had been looking into cookbooks to come up with anything new.
Of course, I don't hold that against him so much. He is a chef at a restaurant in a mall. I'm sure he has more interesting things to do with his free time than find recipes for two freaks that don't eat meat. I just wish he had not told me a story about cookbooks and being into discovering some new dishes, because I really got excited about it. If he wasn't really planning to do it, I would have preferred that he answer like the owner/chef at the Italian restaurant we went to with Charles, who upon getting the story about how we do not eat beef, chicken, pork, nor even seafood, and being asked if he would make something vegetarian for us, perhaps something that wasn't even on the menu, replied quite simply:
Larry, Shawn, Joseph and Chris at Mandú
Posted by crispy at December 5, 2007 08:27 PM
Heh, bet you guys miss Scarborough Fare almost as much as I do.
[crispy says: You know it!]
Posted by: Carol at December 6, 2007 07:13 AM
The comment about people eating the meat and chucking the broccoli is funny.
One of my favorite Chinese dishes is chicken and broccoli. I've been frustrated at the buffet to watch a woman picking through the tray, putting chicken on her plate and leaving a container full of broccoli. I thought that if she only liked the meat, she should leave the vegetables on her plate instead of in the tray, where they could very well remain forever, as there is no need to refill it if it still has food in it, even if it is no longer the correct dish. Broccoli and broccoli doesn't have the same ring.
Posted by: Mark Allen at December 6, 2007 05:10 PM