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Daw Yee Myanmar Cafe - Monterey Park - Terrific 1st Meal

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Just returned from Daw Yee Myanmar Cafe in MP off of Garvey on Rural.

I'm by no means an expert on Burmese Food, but have had the cuisine across Southeast Asia (though never in Myanmar), and scattered cities across the US. Daw Yee is a solid family run restaurant using quality ingredients.

Nice space, attentive service. The chef, Delylon, came out to toss our Tea Leaf Salad and Mrs. Yee (Daw Yee) explained many of the components of the menu. Jared, another member of the family, was extraordinarily helpful too.

We went on the early side and were the only non-Burmese speaking patrons in the restaurant. Other patrons, in addition to eating at the restaurant, left with copious amounts of to-go containers. I guess no cooking this week at their house. And lucky them!

We had the Mohinga (catfish noodle soup thickened with toasted ground rice, Bangkok 1 Spicy Scale), Myanmar Tofu (chickpeas and tumeric, not soy) Thoke (pronounced "doke") which is in the salad category, Tea Leaf Salad (with pickled tea leaves), Lamb Curry, Tapioca Cake, Young Coconut Water, and Mint Lemonade. The coconut water was a great pairing, but I was longing for a Riesling (will bring my flask next time). We needed to adjust the Mint Lemonade with a little more lemon to balance the sweetness.

All dishes were solid, but our faves were the Myanmar Tofu Thoke and the Lamb Curry. We'd probably order the curry with the biryani or platha next time.

Dishes range from $6 - $8. The Chicken Curry is listed as organic on the menu. Want to try that next time along with platha and more salads.

Can't wait to go back. Closed on Tuesdays.

DAW YEE MYANMAR CAFE
111 North Rural Drive
Monterey Park, CA 91755
626-573-8080
Open 11am - 9pm
Closed on Tuesdays
Credit cards accepted

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  1. I thought the mohinga was rather boring, although it was my first time having this dish I didn't care much for it. Although it is a nice restaurant and I'll probably go back to try more.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Johnny L

      Did you squeeze an adequate amount of lemon in it? I actually prefer lime, but they served it with lemon. The citrus is what really brings the flavors out. I like more coriander with this dish too, but it's the best rendition in L.A. for sure.

      I think the salads are really the strong point, but mohinga is laborious to make and I'm glad I can go somewhere to have it and not make it myself!

      1. re: revets2

        Yeah I did but I didn't care much for it, just seemed like lentil stew to me with the catfish nowhere to be found. Won't stop me from going back to try the rest of the menu.

        1. re: Johnny L

          Interestingly, just last week I went to Yoma Burmese restaurant, and had the same reaction to their mohinga. It was bland, even with the squeeze of lime, with very little catfish.
          But some of the other dishes were outstanding. Have to try Daw Yee.

          1. re: suvro

            I did ask the chef about this and he said there are a regional variations of Mohinga. His rendition, like most in Burma, are made with a shrimp and/or fish paste and ground catfish. There are no chunks of catfish in Dee Yaw's version, but he cautioned, there could be bones, so be careful.

            My understanding is that Mohinga is a breakfast dish.

            1. re: suvro

              While Yoma's mohinga's isn't the most pungent of mohingas, the dish (reverberating revets2), much like pho, is breakfast food. I find most versions hearty and just delicious, with or without lime. Some are stinkier than others. Bland is not a word I associate with the noodle soup. Matzo ball soup, bland. Mohinga is... like.. Burmese ramen?

              Mohinga will be the next pho, as soon as Naomi Duguild wins that JBFA for her Burma book. Maybe.

              Anywho, if anyone's interested in eating mohinga for breakfast, you can do so at Yoma for < $5. On April 14, you can also do it in a Rosemead park as SoCal Burmese Association is holding its annual fund raiser: http://www.socalburmeseassociation.co... . They typically have half a dozen mohinga vendors, and the festivities start at ~9 A.M. (ish).

              1. re: TonyC

                i only saw people eating mohinga for breakfast, like other noodle soups in se asia.
                it was thicker than pho, though. i didn't find it bland.

                1. re: TonyC

                  What noodle dish would you most compare mohinga to?

                  I've only tried it once (that I know of), at Daw Yee, and it was probably the most bland noodle dish I've ever eaten. I wonder if i should try it at Yoma instead.

                  1. re: blimpbinge

                    Perhaps 炒碼麵 ? It has seafood, it's thickened (though with starch instead of chickpeas), it has noodles? Not really anywhere close in flavor profile though.

                    I'm very surprised by the multiple "this is bland" posts. These are all recipes from Delyn's family's. He has his sister-in-law in the kitchen and his mom's clearly present in the restaurant, overseeing her namesake.

                    OTOH, Yoma has pork belly & pong ye gi which is still one of my favorite dishes in 91755

                    1. re: TonyC

                      Speaking of Yoma, I just went there for lunch. Flavor-wise, I say Yoma does it better than Daw Yee, but i'm not burmese so I'm not sure where the standard is.

                      Got the:
                      -chicken biryani rice - not in english on their menu, its listen by itself under the drinks section
                      -"shan noodles"
                      -beef & potato curry - beef was as tender as daw yee but curry was not as watery and had more flavor
                      -fried tofu/opo mix - opo kind of reminded me of zucchini? tofu was great!
                      - milk tea - reminds me of milk tea they sell in singapore

                      I could not call any of the items that I ordered at Yoma bland though.

                  2. re: TonyC

                    And it's the Water Festival I'm told by restaurant who gave me their flyer. So bring a change of clothes!

                    Ironically, it's the same day Bourdain's episode airs on Myanmar.

                  3. re: suvro

                    Went back to Yoma Burmese restaurant today for the second visit.

                    We started with the tea leaf salad which is good. However, my dining partner, from Czech Republic, could not discern the tea leaves till I pointed them out. The flavor is more from the crunchy peanuts and the lime juice.

                    We were persuaded to order the samusa - the Indian version being the samosa, and the Ethiopian version is the sambusa! She said they are very different from the Indian version - but while these are tasty, they are somewhat uni-dimensional - filled with that seemed to me lightly spiced mashed potatoes. In India we usually get a filling of cooked cubed potatoes with peas and other vegetables (cauliflower in Bengal), or ground goat meat. There was an interesting sauce which she said had tamarind, sugar, lime juice, and cilantro. These are smaller in size than the Indian samosas, lighter wrapper, and easily shareable in a large group - several on the plate - but it took longer than the tea leaf salad to come out.

                    We then had the fried catfish. It was a bit too spicy for my Czech friend - but just perfect heat for me. Slightly sweet and crunchy spicy hot, the catfish pieces were a little bony - so it might be a bit difficult to eat for those not used to picking the pin bones. For me this was the best dish.

                    We finished with the goat curry - which was very close to the Indian goat curry I make at home. It was slightly sweet, but the onion-ginger paste base was exactly the same as in my recipe.

                    She convinced us to try the Burmese tea - but this is the boiled milk-sugar-tea from India that I do not like. So this was not to my liking.

                    Now that I have tried Yoma twice, I have to go to Daw Yee to do a compare and contrast!

                2. re: revets2

                  Now that I think about it, I was not given lemon or lime to squeeze into the noodles. Would that have drastically altered the way the dish tasted?

                  I also found it kind of strange to eat noodles without chopsticks. The noodles weren't cut small enough for my to just eat with the spoon. I had to request chopsticks.

                  1. re: blimpbinge

                    I thought it was interesting that we were given lemon, not lime, though every neighboring country I've visited uses lime.

                    I asked Daw Yee if Myanmar uses chopsticks or fork & spoon and she replied they use their hands, but the back up is fork & spoon and last of all chopsticks. She says they carry chopsticks for the Chinese patrons.

                    1. re: revets2

                      I'm not sure if I'd use my hands in any modern setting outside of the actual countries where it's still commonly practiced.

                      The last statement makes sense, my chinese-burmese co workers almost always use chopsticks.

              2. I went awhile back, and even though everything looked very good, it ended up being on the bland side. I got the kima platha, mohinga, and beef curry.

                The kima platha reminded me of malaysian roti or a sort of "cong you bing" with minced meat inside, good in theory, but was completely bland to me. The mohinda sounded interesting, but the flavor was too mild, everything kinda tasted the same in there. Lastly, the beef curry, also very mild and didn't stand out much.

                Maybe I ordered the wrong items or maybe burmese food is bland/mild in general, but there didn't seem to be anything worth coming back for. (although I'm curious about the tea leaf salad and the shwe kyi cake)

                16 Replies
                1. re: blimpbinge

                  I liked the Tea Leaf Salad, especially because the tea leaves are fermented (I think I said they were pickled above, but on second thought, I think they're fermented.

                  But that Myanmar Tofu Thoke was off the hook good.

                  I think I'll go back and try some other dishes today. I was told by the chef who sent me there that the platha without meat is preferred.

                  Will report back if I make it back there tonight!

                  1. re: blimpbinge

                    Burmese food is very flavorful. It's not spicy as in "heat". But, when combining elements of Thai, Indian and Chinese, one is going to wind up with well seasoned dishes. One of the great things about the Burmese dishes I've had is picking up on all the distinct components.

                    1. re: JThur01

                      I felt that their food was like a balanced combination of their neighbors. Maybe my expectation was that, because it was south east asian, the flavors should have more of a kick, maybe some intense sour, salty, or spicy. Instead the flavors were pretty mild and balanced, even for my southern chinese palate. Maybe if I had gone without that assumption, then the outcome would have been different.

                      I still think some of the chinese cafes in the area (easily) make a better beef curry!

                      Now i'm curious to try Yoma. Not sure why I haven't tried it even though I drive by quite often.

                      1. re: blimpbinge

                        "I still think some of the chinese cafes in the area (easily) make a better beef curry!"

                        Again, I think it largely depends upon what your expectation of curry is. FWIW, they do have a chili tray if you want your food spicier. They offered it the first time, but not the second. We typically are drinking wine and prefer not to over spice it. You might have to ask for it.

                        1. re: revets2

                          I just went to Yoma and was able to try their beef curry. I actually prefer Yoma over Daw Yee for that, there was significantly more flavor. I didn't try the mohinga there, but tried their "shan noodles" and it wasn't bland at all.

                          I'm starting to wonder if I went to Daw Yee on an off night. For now, I strongly prefer Yoma.

                          1. re: blimpbinge

                            The vegetable curry was a hit with our group as it packed more flavor than the lamb curry, and it packed some heat as well.

                            1. re: TripleAxel

                              thx! may be hitting it later this week to try again since they've been open for awhile now.

                            2. re: blimpbinge

                              Wanted to try Daw Yee but it was closed this evening so went to Yoma instead and had an excellent pork curry. Tender pork with a thick, spicy gravy -- perfect. Also ordered the fish cake curry -- I liked the tomato-based gravy on this but didn't really like the fish cakes with it. Got complementary vegetable soup to start the meal -- a clear broth with slivers of vegetables, garnish of cilantro and lots of black pepper -- very good.

                              1. re: d_doubleyew

                                Yoma remains one of LA's most underrated gems. The menu is twice as deep as any other Burmese restaurant in LA, and beats anything SF is serving as "Burmese" food.

                                1. re: TonyC

                                  Agree. Yoma is terrific. It's not as "nice" as Daw Yee though.

                                  1. re: AlkieGourmand

                                    there's no doubt Yoma is a complete shit hole inside (sorry Joan) but...

                                    the food.

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      Seems a growing trend here on CH to not want to go to "dives" vs. something more visually appealing.

                                      So, folks, what's the priority? Best food or best setting. Pick one. I go with the former.

                                      1. re: JThur01

                                        i haven't noticed that "growing trend."

                                  2. re: TonyC

                                    Really? Better than Mandalay you would say? They don't happen to have balada do they?

                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                      Haven't had the chance to try out Mandalay in SF, but compared to the food in Mandalay in Myanmar, Yoma is pretty damn good.

                                      Daw Yee is very impressive though. We're lucky to have two great Burmese spots in MP.

                            3. re: blimpbinge

                              I like both Yoma and Daw Yee, but tend to go to Daw Yee more often as he doesn't use MSG which I seem to be reacting to more and more for some reason.

                              That might account for the lack of umami or pow some might be looking for when dining at Daw Yee.

                        2. Made a second run to try some different dishes.

                          - Myanmar Tofu (fried in sticks with dipping sauce)
                          - Crispy fish (would skip this)
                          - Platha accompanied by mashed garbanzo
                          - Khao Shwe Thoke (Noodle salad with shredded veggie)
                          - Garlic Noodle
                          - Nan Gyi Thoke (rice noodle salad with coconut chicken curry, tomatoes & egg)
                          - Burmese Chicken Salad
                          - Organic Chicken Curry with Biyrani

                          All, but one was solid, but the standout, surprisingly, was the Garlic Noodle. Would skip the crispy fish...it was, well, fishy.

                          Unlike other Burmese restaurants in the US I've been to which serve a more Thai, Lao, pan-Asian menu, Daw Yee serves only Burmese food, says Mrs. Yee.

                          Not sure what folks are expecting of Burmese food, but the food I've had is just as good, if not better, than home cooked Burmese meals I've had or the food served at the Burmese Church fairs. The Burmese curry here is not a fat based Indian (cream or yogurt) or Thai (coconut milk) curry. It's traditionally herb based with oil. The food is nicely balanced. It doesn't have the searing heat of Thai, the overt sweetness of Cambodian, the buttery richness of Indian food, or the bracing acidity of some Vietnamese food. It's none of these things, but all of these things at the same time.

                          We were there on the later side and Mrs. Yee and her chef son, Deylon chatted with us for a while. They left Burma in 1989 when Deylon was only eight and relocated to Taipei for five years before coming to the US. They had a restaurant previously, but closed it after Mr. Yee passed away and the four children scattered to different schools (college, I think). Deylon went on to get his MBA, but returned to Myanmar in 2010 with the rest of his family for a family wedding and his return trip inspired him to open a restaurant when he returned.

                          Like I said before, I've never been to Myanmar, but am hoping to go soon...before the veil of the modern world envelops her. In the meantime, Bourdain's opening Spring episode for his new CNN show is on Myanmar. That'll have to do for now.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: revets2

                            go. it's amazing. and the food is delicious.

                            1. re: revets2

                              Thanks for the review.
                              One quick note: Indian food is NOT buttery. The Indian restaurants you find in North America all serve a Pubjabi Mughlai cuisine, and their sauces are indeed buttery. But that is NOT what we ever eat at home. I have never made chicken tikka masala at home, neither do I know anyone who does that here or in India.

                              1. re: suvro

                                Agree. Have been to India for several weeks maybe 20 times. I should have clarified that the Indian reference was for what some would be expecting of a curry, especially one labeled as "masala" which this one is.

                                I think the American idea of masala curry is creamy or cream based. Daw Yee's version is not this at all. Perhaps good feedback for the restaurant to label as a herb/oil based curry.

                              2. re: revets2

                                Forgot to mention...both times we went, there were Burmese eating the noodle salad dishes which are served with a clear chicken broth. We thought it was a chaser, but watched every table sparingly add a spoonful of broth to the noodle salad at a time, then eat the noodles and salad, then do this again. They also did not mix up the noodles and salad like the salads without noodles were.

                                I asked our server, Jared (son-in-law), about this, but he's Chinese and I forgot to ask Deylon or Daw Yee about this.

                                If anyone who knows Burmese food can comment on this, would be good to know the background on this.

                              3. I'm going to assume they have the Gin Thoke (pickled, cabbage, sesame, lime, peanuts,etc.) salad...anyone had a chance to try it? I've had it a Yoma, Golden Triangle, and Burmese Kitchen (San Francisco)...all a little different variation on the theme, and all good...wondering how Daw Yee's compares.

                                1. A few more dishes:

                                  - Fried Myanmar Tofu Appetizer (new edition)
                                  Whoa! This appy was like crack and a world different than the original. I would have ordered the previous version again, but Deylon made a softer tofu. It was crispy, light, non-greasy on the outside and molten tumeric chickpea on the inside. I'm dreaming about this dish. It was like a tofu beignet. He should probably call it that. I want to go back for more right now!

                                  Kima Platha (beef)
                                  - Agreed with some of the other posters that it was a tad bland, but it was perfectly fried and was rectified with a little chili powder which really brought out some of the flavors.

                                  - Frog Curry w/ biyrani
                                  The curry was delicious, but I think it had the same base as some of the other curries. The frog was fresh. It had that beautiful, fall off the bone, tender texture never found with frozen frog. I did ask for the chili tray to just pump up the flavor a bit (but not kill my wine). Because fresh frog is hard to get he said it would only be a special. The biyrani is very good.

                                  - Pig Plate
                                  Also off menu, this was a plate of pig chitterlings, heart, and liver. It was AMAZING. Lightly marinated in soy, it was served not unlike a chinese cold appetizer plate. The texture of each meat, especially the chitterling (intestine) was remarkable, soft and supple, but still al dente with a little bite. I hope he'll develop his own chili sauce for this dish, but the Sriracha was good too. The pickled cucumber salad was good with this to offset the richness, but watch out for those red chilis. They're flippin' hot (wine killer).

                                  Pennywort Salad
                                  - A tad overdressed, but delicious. The fried garlic can be overwhelming to the subtleness of the pennywort, but I liked the textures and the healthiness of the dish.

                                  Faluda
                                  - Great and typical southeast asian dessert. Colorful with different jellies and ice cream. Best of all, it wasn't too sweet.

                                  I had a conversation with Chef Deylon to ask if the cuisine from his area was not as spicy and he replied the food where he's from is much spicier, but he's nervous about making it palatable for customers (and children). The chili plate helped a few dishes there and I wondered to him outloud if he was playing it too safe. Maybe the waitstaff should ask how spicy the customer would like their food.

                                  We had a conversation about the "bland" comments and he remarked he refuses to use MSG like other restaurants, so that should be a consideration. He and his mother don't use it at home and they don't want to serve it to their customers. I love the fact he doesn't use MSG. He also roasts and grinds his own chili powder. It's delicious and doesn't taste like anything you buy in a store. Make sure you ask for it if it isn't offered to you.

                                  And, there is a special menu not written! Sometimes it's pork curry or prawn curry, but make sure you ask for the Deylon or Jared and ask what he has that might be special. I saw a special scrawled on the blackboard outside, but when asked the waitress didn't understand what I was talking about. It turned out to be the frog curry. The waitstaff is earnest, but shy.

                                  Our best meal there yet. Learn a little something new every time we go.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: revets2

                                    Fyi, these days he puts chili powder on the side.