Burmese cooking gets creative at Daw Yee Myanmar Corner in Silver Lake
Cassava cake at Daw Yee Myanmar Corner.(Ivan Kashinsky / For The Times)
From left, samosas, fried tofu, beef kima platha and laphet thoke at Daw Yee Myanmar Corner restaurant.(Ivan Kashinsky / For The Times)
The mini-mall entrance to Daw Yee Myanmar Corner.(Ivan Kashinsky / For The Times)
The folks at Daw Yee Myanmar Corner: from left, chef Jerry Cheung; chef-owner Delyn Chow; chef Khing Moe Win; Delyn’s mother, Daw Yee; and chef Aung Naing Soe.(Ivan Kashinsky / For The Times)
Have the design magazines made it out to Daw Yee Myanmar Corner yet? Because it is hard to imagine a restaurant better-suited to a page or two in Dwell: a small Silver Lake dining room decked out with glowing pink-and-blue neon and a black-and-white tiled wall, gilded faux-crocodile wallpaper, brightly colored metal chairs and plants straight from the back room at OSH.
Some of the customers sit on stools at a long, high communal table; others are sprawled on woven cushions scattered on a wooden banquette. You drink out of polka-dot juice glasses, thick bistro glasses or parasol-topped coconuts. If you ask for condiments, the arrangement of jars and bottles on a tray looks like an outtake from Kinfolk. Turmeric-yellow lozenges of fried chickpea tofu, heaps of ginger salad and chunks of salmon belly roasted in banana leaves are on the plates.
If you remember hip Hollywood Thai restaurants in the mid-1980s, when people ate mee grob instead of boat noodles and the music industry seemed to be nourished solely with chicken coconut soup and cocaine, it’s like that, except that it shares its mini-mall with the Bar Method instead of an aerobics studio, and instead of drugs, you can smuggle in Brain Dust and activated cashews from the Moon Juice next door. Burmese cooking — whose ingredients are plucked from the roster of antioxidants, favor vegans and tend to be Instagram-bright — is pretty on-trend. And if you can’t find something to like in brittle, crisp samosas stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes; mellow chicken curry; or sliced tomatoes sprinkled with a few drops of fish sauce, you’re probably reading the wrong column.
I am occasionally asked if there are restaurants I don’t write about, either because I think the publicity might ruin whatever made them wonderful or because the food is so good that I want to keep it to myself. And I always say no. My job is to write about restaurants, not to keep them hidden; if restaurateurs don’t want to be exposed in print, they can always send the photographer away. (This has happened to me only once, at a sushi bar in Canoga Park.)
Still, there have been some restaurants I haven’t written about for one reason or another. Among them was the original Daw Yee Myanmar Café, a tiny, well-groomed Burmese restaurant, named after the matriarch of the family who ran it, on a side street in Monterey Park. I had learned to eat Burmese food at the old Golden Triangle in Whittier, where the chef grew his own herbs, made his own pickles and liked to sneer at the famous Burmese places in the Bay Area, which were, he claimed, less Burmese than they were Chinese. (Sometimes I still dream about his dun buk htamin.)
Daw Yee was less purist in its way, closer to what I imagined Burmese home cooking might be like, but the flavors were clean and light, spritzed with lime juice and fish sauce, tending toward a fresh crispness rather than the brooding solidity you might expect from the cooking of a country colonized for so long by the British. I liked Daw Yee Myanmar Café a lot. But it didn’t seem quite fair to invite crowds to a restaurant that seemed challenged in getting food out to the table or two of regulars who showed up for lunch — where the leisurely pace of a meal seemed more or less incompatible with the demands of even a lazy Los Angeles afternoon.
So it was a bit of a surprise to see Daw Yee Myanmar Corner pop up a couple months ago in Silver Lake – it didn’t quite seem a concept that would cross over. The neighborhood is rich in small Asian noodle shops, but most of them are more notable for chill ambience than excellence in cuisine.
But Delyn Chow’s cooking at Daw Yee is for the most part just right, the menu significantly shorter than it is in the Monterey Park restaurant, and the low-tide funkiness somewhat subdued.
You can’t have a Burmese restaurant without mohinga, the catfish chowder often thought to be the national dish, and Chow’s version is almost delicate, spiked with slithery rice noodles and garnished with a big, crisp lentil cracker that melts into the chickpea-thickened soup. There is a salad of fat, chewy rice noodles tossed with curried chicken and dried shrimp, and a salad of wheat noodles with curried chicken and sour tamarind. You won’t find the tangy, chickpea-intensive Shan noodles that make it onto so many Burmese menus — you’ll have to go to the Monterey Park restaurant or to Golden Owl in La Puente for that — but the kyae oh noodles, with garlic oil, fish ball, ground pork and mustard greens, are not equivalent, but good.
Platha is the Burmese analogue to the Indian flatbread paratha, split, stuffed with spicy chicken or cumin-spiked lamb, and sizzled crisp — it may remind you of a great Javanese murtabak, although the popularity of the dish stretches pretty much from Saudi Arabia to Borneo. The laphet thoke, a salad made with fermented tea leaves, tomatoes, peanuts, lentils, fried garlic, fried beans and half a dozen other things, is slightly less wild than the version at the Monterey Park restaurant — lighter on the fish sauce; no dried shrimp — but is still almost symphonic in its multi-layered effect.
Gin thoke, Burmese ginger salad, is one of the best party dishes ever, pungent shreds tossed with tooth-breaking fried lentils, toasted coconut, fried butter beans, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds and more, bound with a little peanut butter, and probably the perfect dish to ease down a gin and tonic if the alcohol-free restaurant wasn’t nudging you toward fresh-squeezed limeade. The limeade in its Mason jar, especially if you get the one with fresh mint leaves, could not be more au courant.
Daw Yee Myanmar Corner
A Monterey Park Burmese restaurant opens a second location in Silver Lake
2837 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 413-0568.
Starters $6-$10; Burmese salads $7-$10; noodles and curries $9-$12; desserts $4-$5.
Open 5 to 11 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol. Limited lot parking.
Stuffed platha; ginger salad; Kachin-style salmon belly; tapioca cake.
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