Restaurant: Rangoon Kitsilano
Last Visited: January 13, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Kitsilano)
Address: 1602 Yew Street
Phone: (604) 558-1602
Price Range: $10-20+ (Mains $15-25)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 2 for non-Burmese dishes & 5 for Burmese dishes
Value: Depends what you order
- Chef Thant Zin (Burmese)
- Burmese fusion cuisine
- Some authentic Burmese dishes
- Extensive menu
- Wine list available
- Vegetarian options
- Daily drink specials
- Monday: Closed
- Monday-Tuesday 3pm – midnight
- Wednesday to Sunday 1 pm – midnight
**Recommendations: Pork Belly Salad, Coconut (Curry) Prawns, Mohinga
Oh dear. Where do I even begin? Just by looking at the menu I was confused and turned off, but the very sweet and hard working owners invited me to try them out for dinner. I really hesitated and predicted a rough outcome, but my friend Sherman tried it and said it was okay. I don’t like to judge a book by its cover so I accepted the invite keeping an open mind.
I had to stop and think at one point during dinner. I was at a Burmese fusion restaurant, drinking Canadian (BC) wine, listening to Indian music, finishing an Italian inspired dish and waiting for a Polish cheesecake, while hesitating to order a South African tea to go with it. What the heck was going on?!
I get specializing in international cuisine, but that’s not what really happens here. The extensive menu offers everything from Italian, French, American, Asian, Polish, Burmese, West Coast and Burmese Fusion dishes. It was a “we do it all” restaurant, which naturally makes me think they do nothing well. And to be honest, if I tried only their European dishes I would be underwhelmed, but the saving grace was the Burmese dishes which I would actually recommend. I only wish they would feature more of it because it is their strength and where they shine. I believed it.
They are great at Burmese food, not fusion Burmese food, but traditional and authentic Burmese food. Chef-owner Thant Zin is born and raised in Myanmar (previously called Burma) and her talent and comfort (as I saw/tasted it) is in Burmese cooking. However selling authentic Burmese food as “everyday cuisine” is a challenge if they want to cater to the neighbourhood, so they try and offer something for everyone and do everything.
The menu and ambiance is very old fashioned and random to the point of almost frustrating, but if I just tried their Burmese dishes I would be writing about how I found a hidden gem in Kitsilano (with a million exclamation marks after it).
A restaurant like this would do very well on Denman Street in downtown Vancouver, but here it is going to be tricky. I wanted to eat sitting on the floor while listening to Burmese music, but it was not happening. I was looking forward to an authentic Burmese experience. I didn’t expect it judging from the menu, but I did suggest it to the owners. We have pretty much no Burmese restaurants in Metro Vancouver and the lower mainland so there is no competition.
I would love for Rangoon Kitsilano to embrace being a Burmese restaurant, but the owners are worried Vancouver is not ready. The Burmese dishes are still a bit toned down to cater to Western tastes, but they just need the encouragement. True, there are many people unfamiliar with Burmese food and rather play it “safe” with things they are familiar with, but there is another market just waiting for something like this! Fish sauce and pork belly is not “scary” to many Vancouverites anymore – bring on the Burmese food! Educate me!
I am not sure when the changes will happen and they have already changed the menu 3 times since opening 6 months ago, but they are planning to change it again. It is worth visiting before the changes though because the Burmese dishes I had were great and will stay the same. They are trying hard and need reassurance and confirmation before putting more authentic Burmese food on the menu. So if you are remotely curious about Burmese cuisine (or enjoy South East Asian cuisine or Thai food which is a bit similar), then give this place a chance and encourage them to do just that – Burmese food.
On the table:
- Avocado, green onion, lettuce, parmesan, house sauce, rolled in rice paper $9
- This was supposed to be “Burmese-Fusion”, but I saw nothing Burmese about it except for the rice paper.
- It tasted like a Caesar Salad in a rice paper roll with regular shrimp and the parmesan cheese was powdered which is never quite ideal.
- It sounded interesting and better on the menu and it was almost like a Western version of a Vietnamese salad roll.
- It did not taste bad, but it was quite basic and I was expecting something more unique.
- Baby spinach, mint, lemon, olive oil dressing $11
- Again I saw nothing really “Burmese Fusion” about this except for the mint, but it tasted pretty good for a simple dish.
- The tuna was just shaved a bit too thin and I could not pick them off the plate without the slices breaking up into bits.
- The baby spinach would have been more modern and fancy as arugula or frisée, but otherwise it was a very straightforward dish.
- Prawns, squid, mussels, cilantro, tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado $12
- Normally I would not consider ordering this, but I am open minded with food and left all decisions up to Chef.
- I haven’t had a prawn cocktail let alone one presented like this in a long time. Combined with the jazz music I found it quite old fashioned.
- There was a decent amount of prawns around the martini glass, a good amount of sliced squid (body, not legs) and one mussel.
- In the centre was a diced cilantro, tomato, cucumber and red onion salad with a little bit of avocado and chili flakes.
- Tomatoes are not in season right now, but even if I let that go I wasn’t too keen on this.
- It was almost like a mildy spicy ceviche in flavour, but also a bit like a salsa.
- Most of the fully cooked seafood tasted frozen so it was a tough sell as a “seafood cocktail”.
- If I ordered this I would anticipate getting fresh seafood, so this would be a bit disappointing.
- Most squid in Vancouver is frozen though, so that ingredient is understandable, but this didn’t really spark my interest.
- Chicken breast or pork belly, cabbage, tomato, cucumber, cilantro, red onion, roasted garlic $11
- And yes! Saving grace! Now we’re getting into the good stuff! We have a winner!
- I had it with pork belly and I loved it.
- It had great texture, excellent flavour and it was actually traditional Burmese food.
- Was it an authentic Burmese pork belly salad? I don’t have enough experience in Burmese food to say, but I enjoyed it and would order it again.
- It was slices of pork belly which are naturally fatty, but these were a bit chewy and crunchy although very moist and flavourful.
- The pork belly may come across as undercooked (not in an unsafe way) but because it has a chewy texture, which is actually intended.
- A traditional Asian palate prefers their meat a bit chewy and crunchy so those characteristics make it “authentic”.
- Since the pork belly was sliced thinly and all chopped up and tossed with the salad the texture was not noticeable.
- Blame it on my Vancouver born and raised palate, but I prefer my pork belly to be brined and braised a bit longer so it has less chew and gelatinous qualities. I still liked and ate this one happily.
- It was refreshing and crunchy from cabbage and cucumber and also fragrant from the cilantro and crispy fried garlic.
- It was mild-medium spicy with chili flakes and nicely dressed with a savoury and citrusy lime juice, shallot and fish sauce vinaigrette.
- It was a light salad bursting with flavour and it hit all my taste buds at once.
- I know some Burmese salads have roasted peanuts or crispy deep fried yellow split peas, and I would have loved either or both as toppings.
- It was reminiscent of a Thai/Vietnamese papaya salad and it was authentic to South East Asian flavours.
- The only other Burmese Salad I have tried was from Burma Superstar – see their Tea Leaf Salad (it was not exactly authentic, but it was delicious).
- I can’t compare a Burmese pork belly salad to a Tea Leaf Salad though.
- I requested a Tea Leaf Salad to be added on a future menu, but the pickled tea leaves are hard to import and make; so they are still working on it.
- If you like this, another excellent salad to try is the Pomelo Salad at BaoQi Eateri.
- Garlic, olives, wine, mild sauce. All entrées are served with grilled veggies and butter rice or butter mashed potatoes $23
- I feel bad, but honestly I was not feeling the sauce or the baby carrot and snap pea side vegetables which reminded me of TV dinners.
- There was nothing Burmese about this so it was just their take on European/Italian cuisine.
- The fish was cooked perfectly, flaky and moist which is the good part, but the sauce was a bit odd.
- The sauce tasted like an Italian antipasto/chutney meets a French beurre blanc and it couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be.
- There were sautéed orange bell peppers, salty olives, onions, and garlic and I’m not sure what quality of wine was used to make this, but I wasn’t feeling it.
- It was also tomato based and tangy and just different in a way that was not for me.
- The rice was standard and I liked the crispy fried garlic on top.
- And the vegetables… were vegetables.
- For the price it would be great to see them take advantage of the seasonal winter root vegetables right now, or just offer Asian veggies.
- Coconut cream, tomato, garlic, onion, mild sauce. All entrées are served with grilled veggies and butter rice or butter mashed potatoes $18
- And yay! All is good again when they go back to doing what they know best!
- This tasted Thai to me, but it was a Burmese style curry and I loved it!
- It is comparing apples to oranges, but it was better than many authentic Thai curries we have in Vancouver.
- Burmese food is heavily influenced by Thai cooking so it tasted similar.
- This was a homemade, thick, creamy and rich, sweet and savoury Burmese coconut curry.
- Just by licking the sauce I could tell it was made from scratch and with time and care.
- The curry paste tasted homemade with ginger, garlic, and lemongrass which was not overly aggressive.
- It was on the sweeter side like a Thai Panang Curry and it came with a lot of prawns.
- The prawns were likely frozen, but I’m okay with that. They were not overcooked and still had their crunch.
- It was a medium spicy curry even though I requested hot, so don’t be afraid to ask for spice.
- I would have liked more veggies in the curry besides tomato which was used to make the sauce.
- It was a bit redundant with just the prawns, but the sauce was the highlight.
- Again, I don’t have enough experience with authentic Burmese food to say if this was authentic, but regardless I enjoyed it.
- The rice was standard, but would have been even better if it was coconut rice (which they do eat in Burma).
- The veggies were not seasonal, Asian, or ideal as I mentioned above in the Ling Cod entree, but that aside I really liked this!
- Give me Burmese style paratha (Htat taya) or Burmese style naan (Nan bya) and this curry sauce, and I would be a very happy camper!
- Fish gravy, lentils, rice noodles. Can be served spicy or mild. $11
- Woohoo! Another score. I loved this! It was my first time trying it and if I stuck to all their Burmese dishes I would be so happy.
- This is Myanmar’s (previously called Burma) national dish, so I had to try it! I made a request for this.
- It does not sell well and my guess is because the “fish gravy” description is not appetizing, and it is found at the bottom of the extensive and very random menu.
- Mohinga is traditional street food which is often eaten for breakfast and there are many versions depending on what area of Myanmar.
- It was almost like Singaporean/Malaysian laksa, but also incomparable.
- It was served very modernly here and it was obvious Chef Thant did not want to offend a Western clientele, so she separated the more acquired ingredients and toppings.
- It was not a bad thing and she made it look nice. I think it worked out even better because there was a “do-it-yourself” experience and the lentil crackers stayed crunchy.
- Fish sauce
- If you still cringe at the thought of this, get over it.
- It is delicious and the definition of “umami” (savoury).
- It is used in place of salt in almost all South East Asian cuisine.
- Traditionally the fish sauce is usually included in the cooking of the Mohinga soup rather than served on the side.
- It is pungent and smells not great since it is fermented, but think of it as South East Asian salt. Use it the same way – according to taste.
- Chili sauce
- Think of this as the pepper.
- Chef Thant makes this in house and I could tell right away without asking her (but I did and she confirmed).
- She deep fried the dried chilies and garlic in oil so they were crispy, nutty and fragrant and the sauce itself was flavourful and not just spicy and hot.
- There was also soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil in it. I was eating this sauce plain with a spoon. I loved it!
- Traditionally this would be served on the side with Mohinga, and it was.
- Yellow Split Pea Lentil Crackers
- This is a traditional topping for Mohinga.
- She made these in house and they were as addicting as chips.
- You break them up in pieces and sprinkle them on top of the noodle and soup bowl.
- I loved the extra crunchy texture it brought to the somewhat mushy noodles and stew like soup/sauce.
- The noodles were overcooked and mushy, but I think they were meant to be this way.
- Again, it was almost like Singaporean/Malaysian laksa, but also incomparable.
- Sometimes Mohinga is called “Wet Mohinga” because the vermicelli noodles are served wet, so it could be the authentic Burmese style. Wet is different than overcooked though.
- That being said, the warm noodles were actually served wet and also swimming in a thick soup which I considered more like a sauce or stew.
- There was a fully cooked hard boiled egg on top which is how Mohinga is traditionally served.
- The egg was not organic, but I did not expect it here which is okay.
- The warm soup was not rich or heavy despite it being chunky and thick.
- The soup is made from some combination of garlic, ginger, onions, catfish, lemongrass and turmeric.
- It was very mild in flavour to the point of being very bland so you have to add the fish sauce and chili sauce for flavour.
- Chef does not want to offend anyone with the sauces so she lets you do it yourself; otherwise traditionally the fish sauce is included in the making of the soup, and the chili oil is served on the side.
- It was not a fishy tasting broth even though it was made with little bits of flaky firm boneless and skinless white fish (catfish).
- The fish was almost like salt cod, but not salty.
- The soup might be acquired and it tasted bland without the fish sauce and chili sauce, but when everything was mixed and eaten together it was fantastic!
- The toppings and condiments give so much flavour and texture.
- The squeeze of lime makes the dish come alive!
- This was the most memorable dish of the night and I think everyone should try this at least once.
- I would order it again because it was very good, traditional Burmese and something different.
- Mohinga could very likely get better than this, but I wouldn’t know where to find it in Vancouver.
- In the context of Vancouver no one else is selling it and it would be incomparable to the ones in Myanmar, so this does the job fine!
- Update! Apparently Bo Laksa King serves one – see comments below.
- At this point, boss knew how I was feeling (I was honest) and he said the dessert menu would confuse me even further.
- My choices were ice cream or Polish cheesecake…
- I was going to pass, however he is Polish and talked passionately about this Polish cheesecake he orders from a Polish bakery in Surrey, so I tried it.
- There are many styles of Polish cheesecake and some have a sweet pastry crust (most traditional) or cookie crust (modern), but this had a pound cake like crust.
- The whole thing actually reminded me of pound cake and it naturally has a very dry texture and does not taste cheesy.
- It is made from dry farmer’s cheese (twaróg) or ricotta so the cheese flavour is very mild.
- It was obviously baked and a bit fluffy rather than creamy.
- It is not a dense New York Style cheesecake and it is very light and almost cakey.
- It is similar to a Japanese cheesecake and even though it is apples and oranges, I do prefer the Japanese one in this context.
- I was not keen on the non-seasonal strawberry sauce on the side, but really at this point I was not focused on seasonal ingredients.
- In the future it would be great to see Burmese desserts like banana pudding, sticky rice desserts, or something more in line with their Burmese theme.