May 15, 2024 - Food and Drink

What to order at Mister Mao

A close-up photo of a green liquid pouring from a crystal pitcher into one of three puffed, garnished spheres.

The pani puri at Mister Mao arrive as small puffed spheres stuffed with flavor. Photo by James Collier

The pani puri at Mister Mao might be some of the best individual bites you can get in New Orleans.

Dig in: Chef Sophina Uong opened the eclectic Uptown restaurant in the summer of 2021.

  • Since then, she's been serving up whimsical dishes that make you think she might have doors that open into other kitchens all over the world hiding somewhere in the back.
  • Uong calls it a "tropical roadhouse," and the decor is accordingly quirky and bright.
  • Mister Mao was named among Bon Appetit's 50 Best New Restaurants of 2022, and this year was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: South.
An interior shot of Mister Mao shows a brightly-lit, quirky and whimsical space with tropical-themed decor.
Mister Mao is described as a tropical roadhouse. Photo by James Collier

What I ordered: The pani puri ($13) nod to the popular Indian street food.

  • Each of the eight bites is a crispy outer shell, and a hunk of strawberry peeks out from a gap in the top.
  • The plate arrives with a small pitcher of fiery mint water, which you pour inside just before biting. The result is a burst of flavor and crunch.

Worth noting: Pani puri come from a section of the menu labeled foods "that bring us joy and hellfire heartburn," but my experience was less spicy hellfire and more flavorful joy.


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