What better place than French Canada to try Burmese cuisine for the first time? It’s actually a bit odd that this should be my first time trying Burmese cuisine, given the proximity of India and Burma and the longstanding ties in particular between Burma and Bengal, but there you are. After the excesses of Schwartz’s and Joe Beef on my first day in Montreal I was looking for something very different for my second dinner in town and when I learned that there was a Burmese restaurant within reach and that it seemed to have received decent reviews I proposed it to my friends and they were happy to eat there.
The restaurant is located on a busy, cosmopolitan drag close to McGill, and just a hop, skip and jump from Schwartz’s and seemed to be pulling in a university-heavy crowd. It was snowing that evening and the restaurant was quite empty when we arrived (at 7.30; I had a very early flight out the next morning) but it filled up quite nicely as the evening went on. All I really know of Burmese food is khao soi—I think I’ve mentioned before that about 10 years or so ago this was all the rage among a slice of westernized Delhi—and that mostly from the quite different Thai versions; the young woman serving us was very happy to explain everything, however. We ordered to share and hit up most of the sections of the menu (there were seven of us), making sure to order what she said were the signature dishes.
For details on what we ate click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow with captions.
On the whole, it was a pleasant meal. Nothing to get too excited about but if this was in the Twin Cities I could see stopping by once every couple of months. I do have to say that nothing was made spicy even though we asked for it to be made so. It’s possible that this is because my six companions are whiter than the snow that was falling outside; or maybe they just don’t turn the heat up too much in Montreal; I’m not sure what the cause was but a few of the dishes would have benefitted strongly from a little more heat. This was particularly true of the curries, which also suffered from not being so very unlike each other.
I should also say that some of the food fell for me into the “uncanny valley” that I’ve previously described Nepali food falling into for me: that is to say, it was pretty close to Indian food I know well without being it. People without these issues may well like all of this much better (especially the curries). That said, I liked some things quite a lot: the dan pauk, the mohinga and especially the tea leaf salad. I think if I lived in town I’d probably come in mostly for these. Though on a cold winter’s night a bowl of the rich kauksweh all to myself would probably also hit the spot.
Service was pleasant but increasingly ragged as they got busier (there were only two people in the front of the house); it was never really a problem though. They don’t serve alcohol but do BYO and there’s a SAQ conveniently located right opposite it. We brought in a couple of bottles of white wine (a Riesling and a Sauvingnon Blanc and both worked well). The total, including tax, tip and corkage but not the cost of the wine, came to about $21 CAD per head, which is not bad at all.