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Review: Little Rangoon - Scottsdale

Firenza00 Mar 25, 2008 09:26 PM

I love trying new Asian restaurants. My love of Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese is well-known. I recently saw mention of a new restaurant near Scottsdale and Shea that serves Burmese food. Little Rangoon labels themselves as "Taste of Burma" on their menus. They tout that Burma shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand and that their cuisine has been influenced by this proximity. Since that sounded really good to me, I put it on my "to-do" list.

A couple weekends ago, Tara suggested we try Samarkand on a Friday night. We got there at 7:30 to find it closed. This would become a recurring theme for the little Uzbeki place. I was in the mood to try something new, so I suggested Little Rangoon. We headed over and found them in the same plaza where Sushi on Shea, Tapino, Claim Jumper, and others call home at 70th St and Shea. We parked underground and took the escalator up to the restaurant.

We entered the restaurant to find only a handful of tables occupied. The space is very pretty, minimally decorated, but enough to convey it's ethnic leanings. A very friendly waitress seated us and we looked over the menu. The descriptions of the menu items made most of them sound very enticing. I love fresh spring rolls and they listed several offerings with either roasted duck, butter dipped prawns, or tofu. They come two per order and you can't mix and match. I wanted to try one duck and one prawn, but the waitress said they had to be the same. We settled on the roasted and shredded duck meat glazed with Hoisin sauce. For entrees, garlicaholic Tara got the Si Gyet Kauswer (Garlic Noodles) - Fresh egg wonton noodles tossed in fried garlic oil and scallions with either roasted chicken (Tara's option) or roasted duck. I opted for the Singapore Noodles - Rice vermicelli stir fried with pork, shrimp, shredded carrots, celery, onions, tumeric, and ginger. Tara got a Coke and I think I stuck with water.

The spring rolls arrived first. They were... boring. Filled mostly with chopped iceberg lettuce with small amounts of the other fillings and thin strips of the duck. Neither of us could discern much flavor from the duck and the lettuce drowned out any other flavors. Pretty much any Vietnamese or Thai place that offers spring rolls offers more flavorful ones. Not a good start.

Our meals came out shortly after we finished the rolls. Tara's noodles looked like they had a lot of garlic, but again, there was no flavor. Her dish also seemed to be more on the lukewarm side of things. She prefers her food to be searing or at least hot. I took a bite and agreed that it was very bland.

My noodles had a strong yellow hue from the turmeric but neither it or the ginger added any flavor. The temperature of dish was fine. Everything seemed cooked well, but there was just no flavor.

Service was fine. The waitress was very helpful when we asked numerous questions about the menu. Drinks were kept filled. No complaints there.

Overall, we hoped for far more bold flavors from a place that says they combine Thai and Indian influences at the very least. Prices aren't bad, as both our entrees were $8, but you can certainly find much better food for the same price elsewhere.

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Little Rangoon
7000 E Shea Blvd Ste 1580, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

  1. b
    Booger Nov 4, 2009 01:33 PM

    I wanted to give another updated review of Little Rangoon. I have probably eaten there 6 times since my previous post, and like it every bit as much after multiple visits.

    I have eaten most every dish on the menu, and confirm that the dishes that are a little off the normal path, are where this place really shines. I still find the ginger and green tea salads unbelievably unique and wonderful. I also have recently fell in love with the dal curry, which is unlike an Indian Dal, in that it has a smoother texture, and is creamier. The curries have well balanced flavors, and just the right spiciness (we usually go with 3 out of 4).

    I have taken many friends there, and they are all impressed with the ambiance of the place, and the overall quality of the food. My buddy today mentioned he had been looking for Singapore Noodles for a while, and this was the best he has had since he moved from New York.

    This place is very much a Mom and Pop shop. The owner and his wife have always taken the time to stop at our table and chat for a while (just get either of them talking about Burma, and they really get excited). They have always thanked us for coming in, which means a lot. It makes me feel good about supporting their business.

    Right now, they are running a special, of 30% off everything on the dinner menu (including drinks). I thought their prices were really low before, but with this discount, it makes it a downright steal. It is easy to get out of there for around $30 per couple (with an App, 2 entrees, and a glass of house wine each). That makes for a cheap date for adventurous eaters.

    Bottom line, I can't say enough positive things about this place. The room itself is nice, clean, and actually a bit upscale (not divey at all). The owner and wife are pleasant, and provide excellent service. The food is high quality with reasonably large portions. Most important, the recipes offer unique tastes, that make taking a little culinary adventure easy. This is one of the unsung gems of our city, and hopefully more people will discover it.

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    Little Rangoon
    7000 E Shea Blvd Ste 1580, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

    1. b
      Booger Aug 20, 2009 09:16 AM

      I am one of the diners that has had a stellar experience every time I have eaten at Little Rangoon. I like this place so much, that I chose to eat my birthday dinner there (which is a true testament to my love for the place).

      First comment is about the atmosphere. It is "upscale ethnic". It is clean, but certainly has a vibe, that you are eating in some place a little different (although, to me, it felt a little like a Greek restaurant). I felt like I was momentarily transported to a foreign land (which is most of the reason I love to eat at different ethnic places).

      Second is service. This place is definitely "Mom and Pop". Because of that, I always give a little bit of a pass on service mis-steps (although, I haven't experienced many). This is a ethnic place, so I am not expecting white tablecloth fine service anyway. My servers have always been very willing to go over the different items on the menu, to explain everything to me, and help me select the right dish. Recently, I was in with a very large group (20+), and aside from the dishes not coming out at the same time (they weren't all ordered at the same time, so it is even more excusable), they handled it very well. They even volunteered to split the check for us (you even mention that at Los Dos Molinos, and they will kick you out of the place).

      Third comment related to the food. I have been to Burma, but don't remember eating anything (it was just a quick day trip to a border town) - so I can't attest to authenticity. I can attest to some really wonderful and unique dishes. In particular, the Ginger Salad is like nothing I have ever tasted. It consists of nuts and seeds mixed up with a spicy sour dressing. Other standouts included the curries, and the Burmese rice noodles. I think the key to this place for adventurous eaters, is digging deep into the menu. The more normal dishes are pretty pedestrian (the owner probably makes some sacrifices to please the common diner). But concentrate on the specialties of the house (just ask the server, who has always steered us to the more unique items), and you will be rewarded with some really wonderful taste experiences.

      Last thing I wanted to comment on was the price point. The place is ridiculously cheap (most entrees are under $10). We usually get out of here paying less than $40 for 2 (including a glass or 2 of wine). For the quality of the food, and the portion size, it is a downright steal.

      Little Rangoon is a wonderful place. A mom-and-pop ethnic place, serving Phoenix a different type of cuisine. The food, service, quality and price really make this place a gem. I hope chowhounders give this place a try, as I really want them to make it.

      1. m
        Minx Feb 16, 2009 07:59 AM

        I definately want to try this place. My husband and I ate at Burma Superstar in San Francisco a few months ago while I was there for business and loved it. I'd be curious as to how Little Rangoon compares.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Minx
          f
          fastnoypi Feb 18, 2009 07:17 PM

          definitely mixed reviews here. I'll have to try this place for myself. I have close family friends that own the Rangoon restaurant in Philly and alot of the food there is very flavorful and the spicy dishes spicy. I hope not to be over critical because i dont have much experience eating Burmese food elsewhere.

        2. c
          cate.snow Jan 21, 2009 10:52 PM

          I ate at Little Rangoon a few weeks ago. I have no real complaints about the food, except that more than half of the menu is not Burmese food. A lot of the food is from the neighboring countries like Thailand, Viet Nam and China. I had the Coconut Milk Chicken Curry, which was good, but I thought it was bland, spice-less, with the exception of the onions and garlic.

          My real issue was with the service. I thought the host, presumably the manager or owner, was extremely rude to his employees. We witnessed him criticize our waitress numerous times- she wasn't fast enough, she was being "too friendly". He came over to apologize for her lack of experience, which I did not think was the case. We asked questions. She answered. I worked as a server for almost eight years, and I thought her performance was just fine. He went on to contradict himself by standing by our table for the next five minutes telling us about the restaurant. Which is okay, but it bothered me that he reprimanded his employee.

          The restaurant attempts the appearance of upscale, but the tacky Ionic columns, and fake foliage make the place seem cheap. They even have point-cards, and gift certificates one can buy at Cosco. The food is fairly priced, $10-15 for most entrees, but I would only recommend it as moderate southeast Asian food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cate.snow
            c
            CheesemongersWife Feb 12, 2009 08:32 AM

            It's amazing how two people can have two different experiences. The only quam with service I had was that it was a bit overbearing if anything. We have been 3 times and have not seen the owner act in this manner. It's a shame to have done so, especially in front of customers. We ask for our food spicy and they don't disappoint. A big plate of diced chilies are brought out when asked...

            Its not the best I've every had but so far, its the best I've had here in AZ. We live in Carefree and finding good food is getting more and more difficult by the day. Yes we have Binkleys but we crave Thai and Vietnamese.....we do cook at home but....I can't get it quite right....any recommendations are welcome!!!

          2. k
            kittyfood Aug 2, 2008 07:09 AM

            Just a note on Burmese food -- we haven't tried Little Rangoon, but this place may be more authentic than you think. We have become friends with a Karen refugee family from Burma, and of the food that they prepare that we have tasted so far, much of it seems somewhat on the bland side to us, and it is often eaten at room temperature. When we first met them I looked on the internet to get an idea of what ingredients they might use, then bought some of those things at Lee Lee to take to the family. A number of the things I bought were unfamiliar to them, including sesame oil, paprika, and some other spices. Although they do use chili flakes, they seem to serve them as a condiment to be added as needed, and their food is not highly spiced. They have lived for many years in refugee camps and subsisted on mostly rice, fish paste and vegetables that they were able to grow, so maybe their diet is not a typical one that they would have eaten if they were living a peaceful life in Burma. Perhaps someday we will take them to Little Rangoon and see what they think of it.

            1. f
              foodie_21 Jul 14, 2008 08:33 PM

              Never having Burmese food and following a quick look see on the chow board, i approached a friend's invitation to Little Rangoon with a quite bit of trepidation. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how good some of the dishes were. My impression was that Burmese food kind of like Thai food without the chilli burn and a much lighter hand on the various seasonings.

              For appetizer, I avoided the spring roll (thanks for the warning Firenza00) and went for the crispy gourd fritter instead. The vegetable itself was on the bland side, but the crispy tempura-like crust and sweet chilli (barely spicy) dipping sauce made the dish a winner.

              I also had the tea salad which I quite like, though I would agree that the crispy garlic bits within the salad was so subtly flavored that it verged on being bland. But it all works well in balance with the other elements in the dish which comprises of lightly flavored tea leaves, the crunchy peas, sesame, cabbage and tomatoes. Over all a tasty treat.

              The absolute winner of the night and the dish that will be bringing me back to Little Rangoon would be the Burmese Traditional Fish Curry which is actually panfried catfish chunks lightly topped with a curry sauce. The fish was meltingly tender and the flavors were kicked up by a spicy hint of chili. Delicious enough for multiple repeats

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodie_21
                m
                Maggie Kramer Aug 1, 2008 10:16 AM

                I'm at the office and no time for a multi-paragraph review but I wanted to drop a note for the weekend crowd - I really like this place! Of the 5 things we ordered, four were excellent and one was very good. Some of the curries will remind some of Indian curries - just toned down a bit. Very savory food.

                If you like curry, just ask for some of the stronger curries.

                Great little spot, relatively inexpensive and definitely worth a trip!

              2. Rubee Mar 26, 2008 10:18 AM

                Oh, thanks for the report - I've been meaning to get there, but having a hard time getting my non-Chowhound friends to try Burmese. I still want to try it, but now I know to skip the spring rolls, though I was looking forward to the garlic noodles. Disappointing, and I hope it's just a fluke and that they haven't toned-down the cuisine for broader appeal....

                1. winedubar Mar 26, 2008 08:40 AM

                  darn!! you guys beat me to it!! i sooo wanted to these guys!! we snuck into burma/myanmar when we were in chiang mai a couple of years back. lots of soldiers and no street food :( so i was finally hoping to try something stellar!! was it so 'meh' you don't think you'll go back?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: winedubar
                    Firenza00 Mar 26, 2008 09:46 AM

                    "Meh" was Tara's impression. It's possible we ordered poorly, but how do you make a bland Garlic Noodles? Maybe they are still working out kinks. According to the waitress, we just missed a huge rush.

                    1. re: winedubar
                      tara17 Mar 27, 2008 10:56 AM

                      I'd consider trying it again. It's very possible that we ordered badly. Although, I have problems with that too, given my philosophy that "if it's on the menu, it should be good".

                    2. ejs1492 Mar 26, 2008 07:33 AM

                      I think that location is cursed. The place before it, Furphy's, only lasted a few months. And my wife and I were dining at Tapino one night as we watched the creditors removing the restaurant fixtures from the place before that!

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