Rangoon Ruby (san carlos)
Got lunch at Rangoon Ruby in San Carlos; the restaurant was the choice of my impossibly hip 84-year-old auntie, whose Burmese cuisine touchpoints are Mandalay and Burma SuperStar in SF.
There were a few dishes I hadn't seen on menus before, so we tried to order with a sense of exploration. Didn't work out great.
We ordered the Burmese rice salad, which was described as red rice with various toppings mixed in (same seed + pulse array mixed into your standard Rainbow or tea leaf salad). I like the flavor and texture of red rice, so ordered it--what we got was a cup of jasmine rice with a spoonful of chili powder on top. Hm. As I haven't had a Burmese rice salad before, maybe this is exactly what was to be expected, but the menu description of "red rice" led me in a different direction.
The rice salad being a fail, we got the tea leaf. Here this salad had a lot more leaf of the lettuce variety than tea. Tea leaves were whole, and I suspected the typical pungency of tea leaves might be lacking because the whole leaves clung together in a ball instead of being dispersed throughout the salad, like you'd get in the pesto-type chopped or pulverized leaves.
We also ordered the whole catfish and eggplant curry; they came in an identical slightly sweet tomato-based sauce. This was fine but monotone; we ordered it "medium spicy" and there was no heat.
Auntie put down her fork and said, "Well. I enjoyed the company."
Compared to Burmese places in the city, I'd guess that Rangoon Ruby is playing it safe to palates that aren't yet familiar with or appreciative of the deeply funky notes of Burmese cuisine. Also compared to city restaurants, none of the servers appeared to be Burmese; I'm not sure who was in the kitchen.
Dining room was fresh and comfortable, the tvs built into the wall along the back corridor were an interesting choice, but if this afternoon you needed to check in on the scores to a surfing competition between bites of Burmese chicken curry, this was your place.
Thanks for taking one for the team, sorry. I'd just learned of the expansion to San Carlos and was going to ask about it here.
I tried the Palo Alto original not too long after opening. At that time I recall them telling me that they didn't use fermented shrimp paste unless you ask . . . which makes many of the dishes just taste wrong. As you surmise, in the ensuing months, the owners have had plenty of time to dumb down the dishes further.
re: Melanie Wong
I haven't been in quite a while - with a modestly enthusiastic report directly after opening - less enthusiastic at second visit - but I can tell you they looked really busy last night when I took in a movie at the Aquarius across the street. Dumbing down must work.
On other notes in Palo Alto, how about those lines at Cream? I try to drive by once every few days to see if they've abated, not yet. Friday at about 9:30 the lie was almost up to the corner where the bank is.