Before New Year, we had never tasted Burmese food. We have no excuse really, since we had heard about Rangoon several months prior. It was a new cuisine for us and we should have been beating down their doors to get a taste.
The only thing we can think of is that we just assumed Burmese food would be pretty much a clone of Thai food, and all the same old curries we were already very familiar with.
Well, you know what they say about assumptions…
Yes, it was curries on the menu, but the Burmese version is less about coconut and basil than Thai food. As much as we love coconut, this is a good thing. It frees up the palate to concentrate on the actual curry spices. And there’s a lot to concentrate on; these curries are packed with flavour. The chicken curry ($14.00) is particularly good, but (and we never thought we’d say this) the veggie curries steal the show. The eggplant curry ($12.00) is delicious (even R, who generally doesn’t care for eggplant, agrees). By the same token, the squash curry ($12.00) is to-die-for! The sweetness of the squash really enhances the curry flavours.
Rangoon has added some nice little touches, serving all curries with a couple of homemade sides for seasoning. A fresh tomato and chili hot sauce and a crushed dried-shrimp and shallot spice blend, which should be sprinkled immediately across your entire plate! It’s salty and crunchy and adds great depth of flavour to already-yummy food.
Don’t limit yourself to the curries though. Many of the other dishes are just as good – and have flavours we’ve never found elsewhere. The Green Tea Leaf Salad ($7.00) makes a great appetizer – so unique. Even the spring rolls ($5.00 for two) offer a twist on the traditional since they’re served with a tamarind-based dipping sauce. The salads (which can be done with or without meat) make excellent mains. The Rice Vermicelli Salad ($9.00 +$1.00 for meat) – which we preferred without meat – was particularly good with a dash of fish sauce and the homemade spice blend.
Oh, and if you like Indian Lassis, make sure to order yourself a Danechin ($2.50). Yes, they offer complementary tea for your meal, but this yogurt drink is a nice change from the average beverage.
There are a couple of downsides to Rangoon: being a new and small restaurant, they’re still learning how much food they need to keep on-hand without letting too much got to waste. As such, you’ll sometimes find some menu items unavailable. But everything we’ve had on the menu has been top-notch so, don’t worry about picking an alternate dish.
The other drawback is that dishes are really geared to individual servings. That likely works well for the weekday lunch special ($9.00-$9.50, including soup or spring roll and a drink), but for dinner, it would be nice to share communal dishes with friends – the way many Chinese and Indian restaurants offer their food. The owner/host/cook is very accommodating (and a lovely person) and has let us order this way, but it’s clearly not how they’re set up to operate.
Don’t let any of this prevent you from visiting, though. The quality of the food far outweighs any cons.
Just to give you a sense of how big a revelation this restaurant has been to us, we ducked in for lunch on the Monday after New Year’s Day and we’ve been back twice already. For those of you doing the math, yes. That’s three times in two weeks. It’s THAT good. We’ve had no reservations about bringing six other friends to join us (so far) and they’ve all been just as surprised and delighted as we were on our first visit.
Let that be a lesson to us not to make assumptions about untested cuisines.