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Dec 28, 1998 01:25 PM

burmese in philly

  • j

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.

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  1. 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?


    4 Replies
    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. re: patricia

          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
          Bay Area.
          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.

          1. re: Cathy

            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!

            Link: http://www.burmasuperstar.citysearch....

            Image: http://www.burmasuperstar.citysearch....