Meet Me at Whalley’s Corner – Part 3: Manis Pan-Asian Restaurant
This multi-part feature series explores the Whalley historic district with stories about some of Surrey’s long-standing businesses and new comers who are making a difference to the city and its residents.
Manis restaurant is a relative newcomer to the Surrey dining scene, having opened their doors three years ago in the middle of the historic community of Whalley in City Centre, just steps away from Whalley’s Corner.
A fresh dining experience for local diners seeking something different, Manis offers a unique menu best described as Pan Asian. The focus is on dishes from Southeast Asia ranging from the authentic plates of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to various tastes from India. Diners can expect traditional dishes along side original fusion dishes that blend time-honoured recipes with new, trendier concoctions.
Manis is a family-owned eatery tucked into a trendy mixed-use building on Whalley Boulevard. Wendy Lee, a family member who manages the floor, warmly greets every customer as they walk in the door — her sunny disposition instantly creating a welcoming mood. The restaurant is intimate and cozy with a minimalist, but warm décor. The main floor offers seating for 26 with additional room for 16 on the mezzanine level.
As she leads diners to their tables, Wendy is ready with suggestions for those who are unfamiliar with southeast Asian cuisine. She points out some of the more popular items on the menu such as Thai Mango Fish or Mee Goreng a Malaysian stir-fried noodle dish with tomato, egg, potato, and Chinese greens, which can be served with chicken, beef or tofu. Other favourites include: Tom Yum soup, Roti, Spring Rolls and Mango Shrimp Wraps.
Wendy describes the challenges she sees in running a restaurant in this vital and changing area of Surrey as common struggles all businesses face. She says that offering a menu that is not readily familiar to people was a small hurdle that Manis encountered when they first opened. “It is a balancing act to develop a contemporary menu while keeping traditional dishes available.” Now, she sees a regular clientele who love that they can enjoy authentic dishes from their heritage and a growing number of people who live in the neighbourhood who come in to try something new — a change from sushi or burger and pizza fare. She says the growth of the area and the changing face of the community is bringing an exciting change to the neighbourhood, one that is welcome and anticipated by businesses and residents alike.
Asked about the joys of operating a business in the new City Centre in the heart of historic Whalley, Wendy smiles and answers “Definitely, the people are the best thing about this business — the friendships we have made, and the support of our customers make it all worthwhile! Knowing that people come to Manis and have an experience that is more than just eating good food — that Manis is a place where they can unwind and enjoy a relaxed, friendly meal means a lot.”
“Manis,” as Wendy says “is a place where friends can enjoy lunch, dinner or an evening of fun with small bites, drinks and appies. A place where you can experience the many flavours of Southeast Asia.”
I have eaten at Manis many times and I know first hand why Wendy recommends the Thai Mango Fish entrée — it is delicious! Rich with the flavours of sweet chili lime and mango, the perfect sauce to bring a zestfulness to the delicately cooked fish. But my two favourite dishes are Nasi Goreng and the Mango Shrimp Wraps. Nasi Goreng — an Indonesian fried rice dish with egg, tomato, Chinese greens and chicken — is a pleasure to eat. The fried rice was flawlessly prepared and the egg added a subtle layer of flavour that was very pleasing. Pineapple chunks added a refreshing sweetness overall. A great introduction to the flavours of Indonesia. There is only one way to describe the Mango Shrimp wraps — the taste of summer in a rice paper wrapper!