burmese in philly
- jen kalb
visited Rangoon while on a flying visit to Philly.
Its a nice place with tasty food - a solid cut above
any burmese cooking I have had in NYC - the crispy
fish in chili sauce was particularly good, and they
did a good job with noodles. I was puzzled by what I
felt was a lack of clarity in the flavorings which led
me to add salt to a couple of dishes - didn't help
much though. The restaurant is in the Philly
Chinatown, within a short walk of the Independence
Hall area, as well as the Reading Terminal Market.
Great, thanks for the report, Jen. I've been too lazy to get out there myself.
If you didn't seem so knowledgable about Burmese, I'd have emphasized that Burmese is much more plainly seasoned than the Indian cuisine it often resembles. But you knew that...
Just for calibration purposes, did you ever go to the old Dagon on Hudson? Or Mingala on 7th street in its first year or two? If so, how'd you like them? Also, did you by any chance get a biz card? I still have their number as 829-8939, but I know they've moved in the last year or two.
Also, I'm dying to check out the Florida Boy's Street BBQ at 16th and Hunting Park Ave, IF they still do it. It was in National Geographic a few years ago...hey, if anybody has that CD-ROM with all the National Geographic issues on it, could you look it up and see which issue it was in?
re: Jim Leff
Rangoon restaurant is at 112 N. 9th, so it is right on
the east edge of the Philly Chinatown. I'm no special
expert, but we all very much enjoyed the meal. It was
certainly better than anything we had at Mingala
several years back, although truthfully I don't know
whether that was in their first 2 years of operation,
and it was worlds above the hole-in-the-wall place
which operated on St Marks Pl., across from the 80 St.
Marks Theater,for a while. But the best Burmese we
remember was a place on Huntington Ave. in Boston,
which is now gone. It went on a trajectory (easily
visible since we only went maybe 4 times, over a 5 or
six year span) from serving in a former ice cream
place (they were still also serving the icecream),
serving dishes like a wild looking broccoli and bean
curd in a bright red tamarind sauce and tasty curries
to expansion into a burmese food only place which was
still good, to eventual success but blandout (with
interesting dishes dropping from the menu) and finally
closing. You raised the issue of authenticity last
week in another context, and that is what I wonder
here - can the authenticity of a minor cuisine like
that of Burma be maintained anywhere in the absence of
a critical audience of Burmese patrons, or would
success almost inevitably be hinged on adjusting the
menu and cuisine to suit a different western (or at
least non-Burmese) audience? So, in response to your
gentle probing, I have to say that at Rangoon the food
was prepared very well with good ingredients, it was
interesting and enjoyable to eat, but I was left with
some doubts as to whether (1) this was good Burmese
cuisine, and I simply didn't appreciate the seasoning
nuances without closer acquaintance or maybe (2) it
was fine, but I just didn't find it as interesting or
finely-flavored as the cooking of neighboring
countries (as with Korean vs. Chinese or Japanese,
perhaps)or (3)a little something was missing or a bit
fuzzed up or toned down in the execution. Id be
interested to hear someone else's view on the
restaurant or the cuisine.
re: jen kalb
i've eaten at rangoon a number of times andhave
concluded that the seasoning is reasonably accurate,
just not what we (americans)generally expect in
cuisine from this part of the world. lunch sometimes
has seemed to be a bit more focused. there is a woman
whom i believe is an owner who is often there - if you
chat a minute or two she'll take time to go through
the menu with you - and then for certain your food
will seem to be a bit more finely focused. philly's
chintown also has acquired two malaysian restaurants -
one an outpost of nyc's penang group, the other more a
"mom-and-pop" style. interesting food.
An absolutely wonderful Burmese place (but on the other
side of the country) is called the Burma Super Star in
San Franciscon. I go there every time I am back in the
It has very interesting food (funky combinations of
ingredients and textures - try the tea leaf salad or
nan gyi doke, the noodle salad), incredibly low prices
and friendly, efficient service. It's on Clement
Street and (I think) 4th (or maybe it's 5th, 6th or
7th). Just park the car (which will be hard enough)
and walk down the south side of Clement.
I'll second the recommendation for Burma Super Star, only because I didn't get to make the first recommendation. I love that place.
Note that it is NOT fancy (a SF web site that also loves the food says to get to it you will have to ignore the place's appearance), but it is a treasure.
We used to skip the desserts, though, and waddle up Clement to the Toy Boat ice cream place 3 blocks further. Lephet at Burma Super Star followed by Coffe and chocolate at Toy Boat would be WAY too much caffeine, so we usually took the longer walk to the top of the hill on Clement, and browsed in Green Apple Books for an hour. Then we'd pig out on a brownie sundae and coffee on the way back to the car. Clement is a very nice walking street.
go, go go!