The answer to the question “What are you in the mood to eat for dinner” isn’t often answered by the phrase “I’m craving Burmese food.” That isn’t to say that the curries and noodle dishes common to this regional cuisine, as served up locally at Myanmar Restaurant, aren’t craveable – it’s just that this brand of Asian food hasn’t found its niche in the same way that bordering China and Thailand have in the take-out market.Still the fare may be just a change enough to excite those who prefer those Asian cuisines without pushing them too far out of their comfort zones.
Diners can sample the far-away cuisine with just a short trip to Myanmar Restaurant, located on Lee Highway near I-495. The small restaurant, divided into two dining rooms, is crowded with hefty padded high-back chairs, which maximize comfort but certainly minimize walking space. Diners will soon find this added coziness is needed to settle in and read the long menu, which features nearly 150 items when soups, appetizers, salads, desserts and the many entrees are taken into account.
Picking an appetizer, as there are only about a dozen, is a slightly less overwhelming endeavor than deciding what the main course should be. Diners can get a generous portion of spring rolls ($5.99) to start the meal, with four decently sized rolls filling out a plate, warm, crunchy and ready to be dipped in an accompanying sweet and tangy sauce. Among the other fried treats on the appetizers menu are fritters like the lentil fritters ($5.99), which bring five fried mounds of onion-seasoned, crispy-fried lentil cakes to the table. The fritters, with earthy flavors and mealy texture, cry out for the dipping sauce, which they readily absorb.
While heat and spice may play only a small part in the appetizers, it takes on a larger role in the largely curry- and noodle-based entree menu.
In the Nanjee Thoke ($9.50), a constant, medium heat permeates the components of the dish, which comes to the table as a mountain of noodles covered in a starchy curry sauce. There is no escape from the heat when biting into the rice noodles and chicken in this dish. Even the boiled egg pieces that fill out the plate give no respite from the tongue-scorching, though the cilantro and cabbage topping give some flavor variety and crunch to this complex dish.
For the many curries on the menu, the heat is stepped up one notch further.
Among the generous number of seafood dishes on the menu, all surprising less than $14 in cost, is a fish fillet curry ($10.99) that lets diners have their pick of three fish options (salmon, catfish or tilapia) to get the house curry treatment. The tomato-based sauce, while served up with plenty of heat, makes the fish carry more than its fair share of the flavor.
The curry is better sampled with a more flavorful meat, like when it is served up alongside pork in the pork with jackfruit curry ($9.99). The tender, savory pork is paired with matching sizeable chunks of jackfruit, and is curiously matched in pull-apart texture by the jackfruit.
The restaurant recently earned a spot on the Washingtonian magazine Cheap Eats list. While prices are kept low undoubtedly because of the smaller-than-average portions (enough for one, without room for sharing), a heaping helping of rice accompanying the entrees goes a long way in cooling the flames of super-spicy foods and filling hungry diners.
Myanmar Restaurant is located at 7810-C Lee Highway, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-289-0013. Restaurant hours are Tuesday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.