When Jose (my formerly frequent eating companion who has been out of town entirely too much of late) told me there was a Burmese restaurant in Washington, D.C., my curiosity was immediately piqued. So this evening I headed to D.C.’s Chinatown for dinner at Burma Restaurant.
As I have lamented before, the biggest drawback of traveling solo is having to try new restaurants alone, so I was only able to try two dishes. But they were both delicious... homey and satisfying. I started with a bowl of mohinga, the unofficial national dish of Burma. It is a rather thick fish soup, flavored with lemongrass, ngapi (fish paste), garlic, and banana tree stem, with some rice vermicelli, crispy onions, and toasted split chickpeas providing some textural contrast. The flavor is unusual but mellow, even comforting. You can spike it yourself with the provided condiments of ground red chilis, cilantro, lemon, and fish sauce (salty, as opposed to the sweeter Vietnamese and Thai versions). I do wish they had provided some of the other traditional accompaniments like boiled egg, fritters, or fish cake, but that’s quibbling. This was followed by a chicken curry with potatoes. More like a thick stew than traditional Thai or Indian curries, it was a big bowl of three or four pieces of falling-off-the-bone tender chicken that had been simmered a long time in a complex yellow curry gravy with pieces of potato. And since a Burmese meal revolves around rice, there was a big bowl of basmati rice, too. It felt and tasted like home cooking... good, honest food.
Even though I practically begged them not to tone anything down just because I was a Westerner, nothing was what I think of as spicy...at all. Some subsequent reading up on the subject suggests that Burmese food is not, in fact, particularly spicy in general. Prices are quite reasonable, and the portions are enormous. I wish I could try everything on the menu.
740 6th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001