As every hostess knows, picking a new brunch place to try while you have guests in town can be a tricky proposition. Two of the friends from college were visiting and wanted to brunch. I was happy to oblige, but also wanted to try somewhere new (for you! our readers!), so I took a gamble on Mango Tree in CityCenter. I had heard good things about the Thai restaurant ever since it opened earlier this year. It’s the first U.S. location of an international chain based in Bangkok, so I had a feeling we were in for a treat.
We entered into a chic, but completely empty bar downstairs. After a quick jaunt upstairs (we noted that this restaurant is handicap accessible) we were confused by the vacant hostess stand. Another party was waiting in front of us, but we couldn’t help but notice it was oddly quiet and the restaurant was empty.
Once our hostess arrived and sorted out the details, we were led into a huge dining room. The decor is beautiful and exotic, with seating to suit any style, both private and perfect for people watching. The sleek Asian-inspired look, with red velvet half booths, dramatic wood details, and lots of light was captivating. We spent a few minutes marveling at how we didn’t feel cramped by the two large parties in our section, because the space is so much more expansive than many D.C. restaurants.
As we waited for someone to come take our drink orders, it became clear why our hostess had been so absent – the restaurant was woefully understaffed. The only people working were a hostess, bar-back and one waiter for the entire restaurant, which included two large parties. So we settled in and got familiar with the menu. Everything was authentic Thai, with a brunch twist. I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing it is to see a menu without pancakes or French toast sometimes.
We were pleasantly surprised by how prompt our service was after we place our orders. Langley ordered the MT Bloody Mary, which was good, but nothing special. I felt the same way about my lychee bellini. However, the bottomless option for mimosas is a great deal. You can choose from a fun variety of fresh juices, including lychee, pineapple and pomegranate.
The real standout of the drink menu however is the lychee mojito. We all raved about Kelly’s pick and wish we had ordered it ourselves. The lychee takes the edge off of the mint, giving it a truly refreshing quality. This mojito will definitely be a strong contender for Best Brunch Cocktail of 2016.
The small plates came out quickly, thankfully. In true Bitches Who Brunch fashion, we ordered the fried dough. The patongko, Thai fried dough, was light, fluffy, but simple in taste and a bit bland. It really benefited from the condensed milk on the side, which gave it an unexpected sweetness. The tod mun goong, crispy shrimp cakes with spicy plum sauce, were simply fantastic. We appreciated that the cakes were all shrimp, no filler. “I’m still dreaming about those shrimp cakes,” Kelly said four days later, and I have to agree.
There was a bit of an uncomfortably long wait for our entrees, but what’s an extra 15 minutes when you’re with friends? I ordered the jok moo, a bowl of congee, minced pork, ginger and egg. The congee was a little more runny than I prefer, but the dish was hearty nonetheless. If I could, I’d turn up the taste another notch.
By contrast, Kelly’s satay gai packed a flavor-punch. This char-grilled chicken satay with marinated cucumber was small but filling.
Our favorite dishes were Langley and Caitlin’s choices. One had the crab fried rice, with edamame and egg. It was heavy on the crab, and the edamame gave it a nice kick. The fried egg made it feel more like a light brunch meal rather than the heavy late-night dish you typically associate fried rice with.
The omelette pad thai, was the perfect fusion of Thai food and traditional brunch food, in my mind. With sweet taramind sauce, peanut and tofu, the pad thai was enveloped in an omelette. I almost didn’t even get a bite in because Caitlin devoured it. We also enjoyed a side of crispy smoked bacon.
The Bitches Say: A-. Mango Tree offers a savory Thai twist on your typical brunch fare in an upscale environment. With reasonable prices, an interesting brunch menu and beautiful decor, it’s a great spot for large groups, brunch dates, and those looking for vegetarian and gluten-free options. We hope the staffing issue was just a mishap.
929 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001
Mango Tree serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.