Somewhere Id read that the San Francisco Bay Area is home to more Burmese restaurants than Rangoon. Dont know if this is true, yet Ive been to a fair number of them Nan Yang in Oakland, Innya Lake in San Bruno, and San Franciscos Burma House, Irrawaddy and Mandalay. Still ahead of me are Rangoon in Palo Alto, Nirvana and Burma Super Star in San Francisco, and I would love to hear about others. My brother has been with me on some of these trials and last month we tried this small restaurant.
Yamin Win is housed in a strip mall in downtown Los Altos. A very sweet, slow-moving, elderly lady mans the cash register stand and acts as hostess and waitress. We let her know it was our first time in the place and asked for her help in selecting the Burmese dishes from among the many Chinese-style offerings. She brightened and offered descriptions of the ones we were interested in. We ended up with the following dishes as listed in the menu:
#11, La Pat Thok (Tea Leaf Salad), $6.95 - Imported Burmese tea leaves, ground dry shrimps, tomatoes, yellow peas, green chili, and sesame seeds.
#14, Mohinga, $6.50 - Thin rice noodle in fish chowder.
#39, Burmese Curry (Goat), $9.95
#106, House Special Eggplant Curry (without ground shrimp), $7.95
#113, Jao Jaw with Coconut Milk and Tapioca, $2.95
Coconut rice for two, $4.00
When we looked around at the other patrons tables, we noticed that everyone else was eating with chopsticks. None were offered to us, I suppose because we didnt order any of the Chinese dishes. I wondered why the other tables didnt stick with the Burmese cuisine.
Tea leaf salad has been the standard order at each of my Burmese meals. William commented that the version here was strangely cheesy and dairy-like but not as funky/fishy as Innyas. I liked that about it too, but missed the roasted coconut of Burma Houses. The salad was improved quite a bit by a squeeze of fresh lemon to lift and brighten the flavors.
The mohinga came in a big bowl, more than enough for us to have as much as we wanted. Our waitress brought out a tray of condiments and advised us to add a squeeze of lemon, a little bit of fish sauce, and some chili flakes if we liked it spicy. Very thick and almost paste-like, the chowder tasted mildly of fish stock and full of carbohydrates. There were rice noodle vermicelli, soft yellow peas and also a caked lump of something. William turned it over and said, What is this---a fried lentil cake of some kind? We motioned to our waitress who told us it was a yellow pea cake. She brought out another piece from the kitchen so we could see it dry. Very crunchy and brittle, it added an interesting textural note and a roasted tone to the mohinga.
We were feeling full at this early point, before wed had our next two dishes. William mused that all the dried or toasted starchy things in the first two dishes were rehydrating and swelling up in our stomachs.
The goat curry was our favorite dish. Not powerful, but subtle and complex with dusky flavors, and surprisingly not hot. Our waitress said we should specify spicy the next time, for now we could add some of the chili paste on our table. The meat had that combination of tender and gristled texture that goats all about but it may not be for everyone. Id note that the bones were fine and splintery, like poultry bones, and not that easy to eat around without a knife.
I found the eggplant curry somewhat disappointing as I was expecting more smoky highlights and heat a la Irrawaddy. But William pointed out how well it mingled with the gentle coconut rice without overwhelming it. And, he was spot on again.
William was happy to find something more exotic not far from his new home. Wed definitely return to experiment more with the menu.
Yamin Win Burmese Cuisine
305 Second Street (off Main)
Open Mon-Sat for: