If you suddenly find yourself dining at Mango Tree (Bonifacio High Street), well for starters, try not to look for a mango tree or any form of horticulture in the premises. An inquiry on mango-laden dishes may be considered an act of curiosity, but don’t expect the menu to be doused with mango-fused dishes. Or expect mango juice to be free-flowing. That’s what we would call stereotyping and a lack of creativity on your part.
Instead, find not a tribal-island place but rather, an uppity-up Thai fine dining spot that basks in the elegance of its chandeliers and high ceilings and steers clear of banana leaves. Despite the fancy atmosphere, there is still a subtle hint of Thai homey-ness that perhaps is fitting when reading a menu filled with lengthy Thai jargon, dominated by Kaeng, Phad and Tom. Sounds like my childhood friends – how I wish they were - but they translate to Curry, Fried, and Soup respectively.
Dimly lit and with a slightly vermillion theme, there is no house mango-anything; however they offer their splendid Thai Iced Tea, which is not for free but is tasty enough to compete with the Taiwanese milk teas. If I am not mistaken, their secret ingredient is condensed milk. And lots of ice.
The food came in a blur, with servings good enough for 2 hungry or 3 skinny people. With the dim atmosphere and the hasty movements of the hungry, pardon the photos and the blur. This thing we call hunger can seriously cause ADD.
The Yum Woon Sen came with glass noodles that shimmered a mile away, and this posed as a potential salad favorite. The unusually salty-sour-spicy dressing was greatly new to my palate, yet well met. However the same fate cannot be said to my fellow diners – which left more for me. (Yay!)
[caption id="attachment_1812" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Sauce, not Soup[/caption]
The deep fried catfish (Yom Pla Duk Fu) was served with a green mango salad-sauce that we first thought was a cup of soup. Come on, in the dark, the mango slivers looked like noodles and when placed in a soup bowl, just screamed, “Taste me!” not, “I’m the catfish dip.” The unlucky taster was not pleased by her tingling senses, but did enjoy the catfish greatly. Meat eaters might perhaps compare this to the local fare chicharon, but I prefer to describe it as the crunchy fish almost-floss.
The spring rolls (regular and shrimp) were a feast for the eyes but came in only 5 pieces per order. Groups dining who are not a multiple of 5 will have to split, share or abstain. In our case, it was “the faster fork wins.” Filled with glass noodles and vegetables, it was crunchy, delectable and a bit on the oily side. The sweet and sour sauce that came with the rolls is an absolute necessity, since the dish on its own is bland, on account of the noodle component.
A trip to a Thai restaurant is never complete without an order of Phad Thai. Our Phad Thai Goong was enclosed in an egg-net that was so lovely to look at, I couldn’t bear to ruin the design with the fork. But eat was the main order of the evening, and I had the privilege of bringing forth destruction of the fortress and getting the first fork. The rice noodles were on the thin side but the taste was an explosion of sour, salty and spicy. With eggs, bean sprouts, peanuts and shrimps swimming around the dish, it was an excellent conquest.
The grilled quid (Pla Meuk Kang) was mildly sweet yet very tender. Grilling squid can be a tricky business, so this successful attempt at serving a tender dish with no hints of the biter grill taste was very much appreciated. In no time, there was even no sign that Kraken had graced the table.
This grilled chicken was so typical and straightforward that I forgot its menu name. Seriously though, if could give it an English name, it would be: Golden Grilled Chicken. As for the flavor, we’re probably better off discovering more traditional Thai recipes in the next visit. Like satay, curry or mango chutney.
It was among the desserts where we found the abundance of mangoes, which led me to think that perhaps there is a mango tree somewhere in this restaurant.
The Mango Cheesecake was a refreshingly sweet change from the spiced up dinner. The cheesecake was on the light and frothy side, but the mangoes proved to the winner. Undeniably sweet and succulent, this is why mango is my favorite fruit! Delightful!
The sticky rice, which looks a lot like biko, is actually Khao Niew Ma Muang. It is so difficult to pronounce and remember with so many syllables that seek to confuse, the waitress must be so used to people referring to it as biko as well. Of course she couldn’t go around spreading the word and calling it such, but for patrons of local rice cakes, this one’s for you.
As for me, my mind already shut down after the Mango Cheesecake.
While not for the faint-hearted, spice-averse and those who simply detest lemongrass and curry, Mango Tree may not be the best destination. You might find yourself reaching out for a Mango Ago-go at neaby Jamba Juice instead.
However if you’re very much into the adventurous and exotic Thai fare-fest, then dig in and find a spot in Mango Tree. I assure you, your palate will be very pleased.
As for the wallet, that’s a different story.