Thanks to a Chowhound's info on the opening, I ate lunch at YoMa in Allston today, its second day in operation. My meal was great--one of the best under $15 I've had in Boston. I was impressed by the refinement and healthiness of the cooking, which should be accessible to everyone.
The menu seems closer to Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian than Indian. I ordered the roasted chicken salad and jumbo shrimp curry. The salad was perfect. The thinly sliced chicken breast had an excellent roasted flavor. Lime, lemongrass, cilantro, and chilis were all balanced to my taste, unlike in most Thai yum salads, which I tend to find too tangy. The texture was excellent--not too watery, crispiness from shredded vegetables, and a nice, surprising crunchiness which I think came from bits of roasted chilis. The waitress (of sorts) said that the authentic version of the dish uses hotter fresh green chilis, which they do have on hand, but for most people I think the salad is spicy enough as is.
The shrimp curry was also excellent. It had a delicious tomato, onion, garlic, and garlic base that seemed more Indian than SE Asian, but was lighter and more delicate than most Indian curries. It was well suited to the numerous fresh, juicy jumbo shrimp in the dish. Again, the waitress said the authentic dish has additional chili powder, which they are willing to put in, but it's great as is. The jasmine rice alongside had good flavor and was not too gummy or too dry.
Though the decorations are incomplete, I think it's fair to say the atmosphere is never going to be conducive to a romantic date. But the restaurant is very clean and the dishes are plated well. The homey feel reminded me a bit of Floating Rock, without the annoying TV.
The waitress I spoke to was bright and fluent in English. She says they (I took this to mean the proprietors of YoMa) fled Burma/Myanmar after unsuccessfully fighting for democracy against the current military dictatorship. Hopefully the restaurant will bring them better luck. Highly recommended.
thanks for the opening report, much appreciated. will have to check this one out...good to know that you should ask for authentic heat. (or that i should, at least!).
5 North Beacon Street, Allston, MA (they have a lovely takeout menu--which, by the way, says they deliver but...I would stick to takeout until they get their legs under them). Definitely no parking lot--not even close to the kind of place that would have a parking lot.
Some more info: takes cards, open M-Sat 11:30 to 11, Sun 1 to 10. Phone: (617) 783-1372. However, I watched them let the answering machine pick up four times.
In Allston Village, in the same block as Deep Ellum and Grasshopper. Don't know the exact number (I think the awning is bright orange?). It's Allston, so parking can be difficult - I don't think I saw a parking lot for YoMa. We will try to head over there this week.
I tried it last night: great food, but a very long wait to get the food after we ordered. As in over an hour from the time the DC and I sat down until we got our first of four dishes, and a 2.5 hour meal overall (and we weren't lingering much after finishing our last dish).
Our first dish was the same chicken-based salad that the original poster described. It was excellent, just as described above.
Our remaining three dishes came out one-by-one over the next hour. They ranged from just above average to very good:
-a chicken curry served with excellent rice. The curry itself seemed somewhat more subtly complex than Indian or Thai curries -- it was both mild and had multiple flavors going on. The rice was a sticky Jasmine rice that to me was perfectly cooked, sticky without being gummy. Above average to very good dish overall.
-a soup with mustard greens and pork. Very rich broth, very fresh greens. I would absolutely get this dish again.
-a pasta/chicken/gravy sort of dish, I can't remember the name but it was in the Burmese specialties section. It was very flavorful but I'm not sure I'd get it again.
The friendly waiter (there was only one) was very nice and generally forthcoming about the delays, and seemed rather embarrassed at the pacing. While we waited for the food, at least one group got frustrated with the wait and decided to leave. Other tables seemed to be taken by friends/relatives of the owner and seemed to be having similar delays.
At the end of our meal, the owner was chatting with us and again apologized for the delays - he assured us they were working to have 2 cooks in the kitchen rather than one to speed up the service.
I have had Burmese food before in San Francisco and this didn't live up to my memory of those meals, but it was good enough that I'd go back. The waitstaff and owner were quite friendly, the food was all fresh and served as it was ready, and the menu was interesting enough to keep exploring. I'll probably wait a couple of weeks before I try it again though.
re: JP RS
FYI - YoMa doesn't have a parking lot, but Cambridge Street, West of Brighton Ave is all non-permit parking and usually there are plenty of spaces on the north side, particularly once you've passed Gordon. You might have to walk a block or two, but it's usually one of the easier spots in Allston to find parking.