Grabbed a tea leaf salad on my way home last night, which was very good and very spicy! Possibly I was not supposed to eat those peppers. Lots more on the surprisingly extensive (for such a small place) menu that I want to try.
Arrgh, you’re killin’ me. We lost our truly great Burmese place in Virginia, and then most of the others went belly up as well. Although some are better than others, there is no such thing as a bad ginger salad.
Impresssive menu. Which tea leaf salad did you get?
The regular one. Thought I’d start with the basics. I probably should’ve gotten the one with fermented ginger, upon reflection. There used to be a great Burmese place* on E 7th St., years ago, that served this amazing savory napoleon-like thing with “tasty vatana peas.” I still think about it.
The place I remember on E. 7th from ancient history (but was probably the restaurant that woke up my taste buds) was a little place on 1st Ave. called Miracle Grill. One of my then-boyfriend-future-husband’s architect friends had helped design the place and told us the food was pretty good. We would schlepp down there from the Upper West Side and wait hungrily by the bar till we could get a table. (I just don’t remember reservations being a thing in my youth.)
Anyway, they had a garden out back that twinkled with fairy lights, and in the summer, there was nothing better than being out there in the gently warm night, sipping on a margarita and eating this insane food (Southwestern). My favorite was a grilled chicken dish (really just grille boneless, skinless breast meat). But it came with a pile (and I mean a pile) of fresh made matchstick fries that had little bits of green and red chilies hanging onto their crispiness. I have always been a sucker for good potatoes, but these were unlike anything I’d ever seen before (or since, come to think of it). There were other dishes we liked too, and friends who went with us were immediate converts. We would go as often as our bank accounts would allow.
Anyway, after a few years, they lost their fantastic chef, and it was never the same after. That young chef? Well, he had moved on to open a restaurant of his own. It was waaaay out of our price range, but we did get my in-laws to take us there when they came to town. A little place called Mesa Grill. I still miss those restaurants! Gato, IMO, was just missing the soul that those early places had. (Not sure it is even around anymore…)
Gato has been gone for awhile
Loved that back garden. Loved the food that Flay was churning out. Loved those days. Would’ve loved to have more $$ back then though.
yes MIngala. We are over by A and 2nd a couple times a month I will definitely check this out. I love tea leaf and ginger salad! Rangoon, in Crown Heights is very good btw. I rememberalso the wondrful Burmese festival way out in Queens that the Myanmar Baptist Church used to run, - hope to enjoy that again one of these years.
Little Myanmar actually serves five variations on tea leaf salad. The one shown here, with fermented ginger, was more intense and complex than the laphet thoke at Rangoon, and not overspiced.
The Myanmar Baptist Church Fun Fair, which moved mostly indoors some years ago, has been on hiatus since the onset of Covid in Queens, and the organizers still aren’t sure if it will return in 2022. However, the latest in a series of Burmese fundraisers will be held on November 12 at the St. James Parish House in Elmhurst. By noon these events become very crowded, but on a temperate day folks will sit outside at picnic tables, on stoops, and on the grass.
thanks Dave! is there a mailing list or social media link for the current series of Burmese events? Id like to revisit.
My own Eating In Translation accounts are your best bet. I pick up intel on Burmese (and many other) events from multiple sources, not all of them public. It can’t hurt to nudge me every so often, either.
This time @DaveCook and I joined forces, in order to tackle more of the menu. Tea leaf salad with anchovies. I thought this was pretty great, if not as spicy as the salad I had on my first visit - it may be toned down a little.
Yellow noodles with potato and tofu. I wasn’t crazy about this, as it was kind of bland. And starchy. Which is what happens when you mix potatoes and noodles, duh.
Eggplant curry. This was pleasant enough, a bit too mild (a pattern is emerging). It came with a thin lentil (I think) vegetable broth, which was very good on the rice.
Mala shrimp and fish cake skewers. I loved this - nice and smokey, with a little heat.
My fave thing is still the tea leaf salad!
The Church fest is now in Elmhurst. Haven’t been to the fest since covid but it was still pretty good before covid, and the folks running it are super lovely. The backyard in Briarwood was sweet. One year there was also a Karen (ethnic group) fest as well. The food was very different from the Burmese food. I don’t think there’s been another Karen fest since. Long Live CH!
Oh, every day is a Karen fest somewhere!
I see you are not familiar with other uses of the word “Karen.”
I am…but for others who arent familiar w/the many different group in Mandalay…
Maybe ask for hot sauce/sambal? The reluctance to season fully is so often a problem with SEAsian restos outside of their own communities.
At a Burmese place, you ask for balachang.
Many of the curries will be mild. To be expected, and not an indication of taming the food.
If you order something that is expressly marked as spicy and it isn’t, then that’s a problem.
Yeah many dishes are mild, but whether its shrimp paste or chile, or herbs or spice I think there is a problem sometimes with some restaurants not wanting to upset western customers with funky, strong or unusual flavors or skimping on garnishes. Or at the other end of the spectrum over-sweetening. Maybe its less of an issue in DC area with its huge SEAsian community than NY. If there are condiments on the table there is no problem