My folks and I love ethnic food, and we're big fans of Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, etc. But before Saturday night, we had never tried Burmese cuisine. We're fans of it now! Myanmar Restaurant is great. Thanks to everyone on Chowhound who has recommended it in the past. We don't get up to the D.C. area very often, and it was a little bit of a trek from the Smithsonian, but it was completely worth it.
If Myanmar Restaurant's food is any indication, Burmese food is more than just a combination of the cuisines of the bordering countries like India's, China's, Thailand's, etc. Although it is clearly related to all of those, it has its own distinct, fascinating and powerful identity.
We got the ginger salad and the squid salad as appetizers. The ginger salad was revelatory. I'm not sure I'm eloquent enough to explain it in detail. In some ways it resembled a really great Vietnamese salad (I think it utilized lemongrass and nuts for instance) because it was light and full of intense flavor, but it was unique from anything I've eaten in a Vietnamese restaurant, too. The squid salad was also good, if not as spectacular. The squid was soft, tender and fresh. Oddly to me, it came in straight, thick, ivory-colored bars rather than rings.
For main courses, we got a shrimp dish in spicy sauce, the sour mustard plant with pork, and a spicy whole fish (if I remember correctly it was grilled and the menu offered a choice of mudfish or tilavia, but we forgot to specify so I don't know which one they brought us).
Each one was excellent. The shrimp were tasty and came in a thick reddish sauce that was intensely spicy to me. (My mother didn't think it was unusually spicy though--I guess constant consumption of ginger pickle and various habanero-laced condiments over the past several months has inured her to such fiery stuff.)
It was great, though I wished they'd had an authentic cold drink to help wash it down, other than water. There was no homemade iced tea (although their web site implies they have such a thing), just American iced tea from a mix, which I declined. I guess Burmese don't have a drink along the lines of Thai iced tea? Or if so, Myanmar Restaurant doesn't carry it.
Their menu also listed ginger beer, but the server clarified that it's merely standard American ginger ALE (ick) so I declined that as well. They kept the water refilled well though.
The sour mustard plant with pork was good too. It sort of tasted like those vaguely spicy "hot" green pepper rings you buy in jars in the supermarket, but much fresher. The pork had a unique and very tender consistency. (That dish is also available with shrimp or with chicken.)
Perhaps the best of the entrees was the whole fish. Wow! That easily rivalled any whole fish I've eaten in better Thai restaurants. Again, it was done differently. The power of vocabulary is failing me. It's beyond description. Mmmmmm.
There was also a great dessert item whose name I could not discern, but a recent review of this restaurant in the Falls Church News Press (linked below) identifies it as "shweji" and describes it well. I've eaten a vaguely similar Indian dessert also made from cream of wheat, which I also loved, but this may have been even better. And the rice pudding was not bad.
Nobody will go to this place for the ambiance. It's not a dive by any means, and it has some really nice little bits of decor like some great handmade wooden puppets and a funky fake tree, but don't expect the setting to be particularly great or anything. But who cares? I just mention that to weed out anybody for whom ambiance is crucial. This place is all about the fantastic food.
Even better, Myanmar is very inexpensive. Most of the entrees were around $7 or $8. I believe the salads were around $5. Rarely do we find such a great deal on superbly authentic spicy Asian food, outside of the great Sripraphai Thai restaurant in Queens, NY.
Myanmar Restaurant is at 7810-C Lee Highway (U.S. Route 29) in the little Merri-Falls strip mall, next to a 7-11 and a place called Bubba's BBQ. For some reason, Myanmar doesn't get a sign on the marquee next to all of the other stores in the strip mall though.
It's not far from I-66 or from the Beltway.
Their mostly uninformative web site is: http://www.myanmarrestaurant.com
The few menu items listed at their site definitely don't do it justice. They seem all wrong. I wish they'd list the whole menu, and correctly.
Hmmmm, anybody ever seen the great movie "Beyond Rangoon?" Well, anyway, go eat at this place.