Moonwink bringing taste of Burma to Manchester

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MANCHESTER —May and Wesley Stannard are preparing to say "mingalarba" to Manchester with their new restaurant, Moonwink, which they expect will be open by July 23. The restaurant will serve Burmese cuisine, which, according to the couple, is "very similar to other cuisine from Southeast Asia, although it has been influenced by many of its bordering countries, mainly India, China, and Thailand."

Though Wesley Stannard is a Manchester native and ninth-generation Vermonter, he became interested in cooking while living in Brooklyn, New York. "While living in the city, I really got into food. I got into cooking, and I loved being around different cuisines all the time," he said.

The couple met in New York while May Stannard was working in the kitchen at The Purple Yam, a pan-Asian restaurant known for its traditional Filipino dishes. The couple moved to Manchester several years ago when May Stannard was pregnant with their first child, but missed the diversity of cuisines they had enjoyed in the city. "The quality of life in Manchester is fantastic ... but the one big complaint I hear from people who aren't from here is there's no real variety in the food," Wes Stannard said.

May Stannard, who grew up in Yangon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been cooking with her mother and grandmother since she was 5 years old. Because of her Burmese heritage — in fact, her family still lives in the city of Bago, in southern Burma — she is familiar with "many, many dishes from different parts of the country."

As head chef, she plans to offer a menu that will feature her take on Burmese cuisine, with several consistent offerings and rotating specials sure to include specialties such as mohinga, a catfish-based stew which is the national dish of Burma, and laphet, a salad made with fermented tea leaves and crunchy beans.

"We are looking forward to introducing the people of Vermont to a style of food they are most likely not familiar with.," the couple said. "We are excited about offering something different to this community."

The restaurant will occupy the space that formerly housed Rachel's Gourmet Foods, a longstanding local deli. Rachel's recently relocated to 468 Depot Street, and the Stannards have been working in Moonwink's current location, at 4479 Main Street, since December.

"We'd been thinking about doing this since we moved back here," said Wesley Stannard. "When the previous tenants left in December and the building became available, we decided that now was the time."

"Manchester seems to have some kind of momentum going on—there's been a little bit of a shift," he continued. "The downtown area is revitalizing, there are two new restaurants in the Factory Point Bank building, and so we just decided to go for it. It's a lot of work and it's scary, but the reaction we've gotten from people so far has been really positive."

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