There’s a new replacement restaurant in the works for the suddenly shuttered El Burro in the Lamar Union development: Vietnamese and Thai spot Mandala Kitchen & Bar. The South Lamar restaurant is expected to open relatively soon, though no exact date has been set.
The focus of Mandala’s menu is modern and homestyle Vietnamese and Thai dishes, which chef/owner Kieu Pham sees as “similar,” because “both are very flavorful and use a lot of herbs,” as she told Eater. She is also looking for other chefs who want to try out new things.
Costs are important to Pham. For every dish, she asked herself: “‘Would I pay this much for this plate?’ I don’t sell anything that I wouldn’t want to pay for,” she said. Mandala is previewing dishes at Lamar Union’s Valentine’s Day event next week.
Pham originally wanted to open a food truck, but an investor convinced her to open a restaurant instead. “I read a lot of bad and good reviews about the plaza,” Pham said referring to the Lamar Union location, “but I’m very hopeful under the new management.” Boston-based real estate firm TA Realty bought the Zilker mixed-use development from its original owners, real estate company Greystar Real Estate Partners, last summer.
Pham grew up in Vietnam and then moved to Amarillo with her family, who operate several restaurants in the Panhandle city. She came to Austin for school and has been here ever since.
The space will undergo minor renovations, meant to exude a “modern vibe and warming atmosphere,” according to Pham. The full bar and patio will remain in use.
Lamar Union has faced three restaurant shutters last year. First, there was Italian cafe Cantine from the team behind Asti (that space is now Japanese restaurant Soto’s South Austin branch), Vox Table’s fancier Mexican restaurant El Burro, and deli/market Delicious. Then there were a bunch of non-restaurant closures too, like Resolute Fitness (which is now an Orange Theory).
The South Lamar stretch is going through an Asian restaurant burst recently. Uchi’s Tyson Cole and Franklin Barbecue’s Aaron Franklin will open an Asian smokehouse in late March called Loro. The original Barley Swine location is now home to Thai restaurant Krua Urban Thai. East Side King Thai Kun opened a chicken-dedicated truck at Corner Bar, but it left the location two months ago. Then there’s Soto’s second location.