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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rangoon Superstar: Burmese Style Cuisine

Happy Thursday my friends! 

Thanks to the contributions of our US Presidents back in the day, I was able to happily enjoy my Monday off as well as a shortened week of school. I'm SO glad tomorrow is Friday! :)

Anyway, today's post is about Rangoon Superstar, a Burmese ethnic cuisine place down Telegraph Ave. My mom came to visit me and I wanted to take her to a place she has not tried before here in Berkeley. So at around dinner time, we found ourselves standing in front of Rangoon Superstar, ready to fill our tummies with delicious Burmese food. 

Rangoon Superstar is a branch off from Burmese Superstar, their main restaurant in Oakland. The food is similar with the exception that Rangoon tends to have more of a Thai style twist while Burmese has, well, Burmese style foods. The inside of Rangoon was very pleasant, with hardwood floors and floor to ceiling windows letting customers glance at the beautiful views of cars rushing past on a busy Thursday afternoon (hah, not really...). Well, the windows were nice even though the view could be improved. The place was smartly decorated with Burmese style art pieces and the lights were dimmed for a more enjoyable dining experience.  

I had previously read reviews about this place and they recommended the Tea Leaf Salad. And of course, when everyone raves about a food, I naturally have to try it for myself and be the judge. One thing I have to mention is that the service here is exceptional. Right when they put down the appetizer of shrimp chips, the waiter told us the allergens in the food!! (!!!) I know, right? This NEVER happens (at least at the places I go to!) 

So, as you can imagine, I'm thoroughly impressed (and I haven't even ordered anything yet!) The waiters were all very nice and attentive to our needs. My water glass was never empty for more than 5 minutes. I mean, if that isn't great service, I don't know what is! 

My mom and I decided that we had to try the popular Tea Leaf salad and we also ordered the mango chicken. The waiter asked us if our party had any food allergens (rare, I know!) and I told him that I had a wheat/gluten allergy. He immediately went to the kitchen to inform the chef of this and came back and said the mango chicken had a little bit of wheat in the mango puree sauce. He asked me how sensitive I was and since I know my sensitivity level is pretty low, I went ahead and ordered it. Since my track record has been decent with cross-contamination, I figured a tiny bit in the sauce wouldn't hurt much. Again, I want to make a brief disclaimer that if you are very sensitive, pick a different menu item or do not eat here. I'm sure since the service was so great that the waiters would help you find something that is suitable. I feel a bit guilty to my body, but I really wanted that mango chicken because I just adore mangoes! 

The tea salad came out first. Here is a snapshot before the waiter mixed the salad together: 
The tea leaf salad is an authentic, popular Burmese dish that has romaine greens, beans, tomatoes, peanuts, fried garlic, sesame seeds, shrimp powder, a squeeze of lemon topped off with Burmese tea leaves. The presentation was very colorful and quite attractive. I was excited to dig in. 

Unfortunately, I did not like the salad that much. I blame it on my preference for sweetness and the fact that I am not familiar with traditional Burmese food. The salad was more on the savory side with a bit of sourness from the lemon, crunch from the fried garlic and nuts, and bitterness from the tea leaves. If you enjoy those flavors over sweet then you would probably enjoy this salad. I admit that I was unaccustomed to the taste and could not fully appreciate the complexity of flavors. I hope that one day I may be able to enjoy this dish when I acquire a broader range of taste buds than the ones I have now. Of course, years later, I still might not enjoy this dish, but only time will tell. 

The mango chicken came out a bit later. Here is a nice picture:
The mango chicken is originally spicy, but since my stomach is not good at handling spicy foods because of its delicate nature, we decided to go for mild spice and err on the side of caution. Apparently mild means no spice, so it came out not spicy at all and mostly sweet. I enjoyed the sweetness because of my sweet tooth, but my mom thought it was only average. The fresh green mango in the chicken had a delightful crunch yet soft, sweet insides. The chicken was very tender, although a bit lukewarm. Not my idea of a good chicken. Chicken, in my opinion, should have some steam when it comes out. But that may just be me. I like foods that are hot when they come out of the kitchen. 

All in all, Rangoon had average food with nice decor and excellent service. The service really saved my impression of this place. If not, I would not even think of coming back. When their food improves (ie, get a new chef), and the service remains the same, you'll be sure to see me sitting at Rangoon eating my meal and staring out those floor to ceiling windows gazing at the magnificent view of traffic on Telegraph Ave. 

Take care and until next time,