Manna debuts in former Tango du Chat

Fans — and doubters — of downtown Wilmington’s late Tango du Chat restaurant behold: Manna.

Manna opened this week on Princess Street downtown 

Located in the old Tango space (123 Princess St.) and created by two of that departed restaurant’s developers, Manna opened this week with a look and menu that have potential to elevate downtown’s dining scene.

Chef Jacob Hilbert returns to his old kitchen while business partner William “Billy” Mellon, past Tango bar and wine list manager, is back up front as general manager.

Tango’s dishes were considered genius by some, too complicated by others. Whatever the opinions were of the restaurant that was in business from 2005 to 2007, Manna is different.

Manna’s green granite bartop and heavy, orange window treatments, both redesigned in the same mature manner that characterizes the fresh effort, are all that remains from Tango’s décor.

In the dining room, white tablecloths and black lacquer medallion chairs contrast red brick walls hung with dreamy paintings by Wilmington artist Pam Toll.

Ceiling lanterns taken from the set of the film “Bolden,”shot in and around Wilmington over the past two years, beckon to white stools in the airy bar where signature libations include the Solid Gold Sidecar (apple brandy, Gran Marnier, fresh lemon and lime juice and simple syrup) and Devil on a Leash (cinnamon- and star anise-infused tequila, pomegranate juice and fresh lime juice in a chili piquin-rimmed glass).

Lanterns from ‘Bolden.’ 

Where, as Hilbert put it, Tango’s menu listings “read like sonnets” full of information about cooking techniques, Manna’s American offerings are described in restrained prose.

Barbecued Duck and Butternut Squash Tart’s subtitle is “coconut milk braise with kaffir lime leaves & cilantro, ginger, almond pesto.” Beet Box Salad is explained as “beets & goat cheese terrine, watercress, orange supremes, pistachios, ginger & red wine vinaigrette.”

The details on Scallops with Lemony Potato & Mushrooms read “sea scallops pan-seared with red chile pumpkin seeds, sage, pine-smoked mushrooms, confit of brussels sprouts, preserved lemon & sauce vichyssoise.”

The menu will change seasonally, “and by seasonally, I mean every day,” Hilbert said with a laugh. He’s still tweaking offerings and a specials board is on the horizon.

First-course prices range from $6 to $9, entrees from $15 to $28.

Manna’s dining room. 

Meantime, Mellon has organized an interesting and reasonably priced list of American craft beers (Terrapin Rye Pale, Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA) and an Old World and New World wines (Morgadio Albarino, L’Ecole chardonnay, Benito Ferrara greco di tufo).

Dinner begins at 5 p.m. Reservations, especially on weekends, are suggested. Call (910) 763-5252.

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