Off the beaten path with Rangoon, Ottawa's only Burmese restaurant
Burmese cuisine is rare in Canada and Ottawa’s got it.
Name + address: Rangoon, 634 Somerset St W
Type of food: Burmese
Diet: meat, fish, vegetarian
Wheelchair accessibility: No
LCBO Licensed: Yes
As with Chahaya Malaysia, with Rangoon we have the only restaurant of its kind in Ottawa. In fact, it remains one of only a few Burmese restaurants in Canada. It’s a good thing therefore that you’ll find yourself wanting to revisit this cuisine.
Lentil soup (PaeHinnYae). Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
My love of soup is not weather dependent and so I decided to start with the coconut soup. Unfortunately, it was not available and while that was a disappointment, the lentil soup more than made up for it. It was mild, delicately sweetened with carrots and soft with a nutty finish. It had been nicely constructed with a spice that built slowly but never overpowered.
Green tea leaf salad (Laphet Thoke). Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Laphet Thoke is considered a classic of the Burmese kitchen. It’s a salad made distinct by the addition of fermented green tea leaves and is unique amongst the cuisines of southeast Asia.
The leaves had a slightly bitter tang and added a flavour to the dressing both exotic and appetite-inducing. The sesame seeds and toasted chickpeas gave a satisfying crunch to a salad that, were it large enough, would make a terrific meal on its own.
The umami of the magnificent dressing coupled with the chew of the chickpeas made for an all-round complete taste experience. Nothing too much or too little and I made a mental note to include this salad as part of a quarterly round-up.
Eggplant (Kha Yen Thee Hinn). Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
You know how it goes. Have one bad experience eating or drinking something and you are off that thing for life. That’s how it was with me and eggplant. Then I experienced eggplant at a Thai restaurant and I made a new love.
While not seasoned in the same way, the eggplant at Rangoon is lusciously soft and slurpable. The dark sauce gives a lift to the fragrant rice and would be sufficient as a meal even for meat eaters.
Then there is the matter of the accompanying vegetables. I truly appreciate when something as simple as steamed vegetables are a highlight in a dish. Here chef knows precisely how to keep her veg crisp and colourful while maintaining the proper temperature.
Beef (Ame Thar Hinn) Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
The beef was judiciously spiced and complex and, while I appreciated this recipe at the hands of an experienced chef, I felt a different cut of meat would have better served the dish. I had the idea that some kind of “round” cut had been used and cut in a way that left some of the beef feeling a little dry while other bits were a little juicier.
You should know that I’ve eaten at Rangoon pre-pandemic and encountered some of the same issues on this visit. Certain items like soups and spring rolls may not be available and now, worst of all, their excellent green tea leaf salad dressing is no longer for sale by the bottle. Please also note that their website is woefully out of date and they no longer offer combination dinners or lunch specials.
Rangoon is a choice destination for those craving a meal off the beaten path without the heat seen in some other southeast Asian cuisines. Bring friends or family because this is home cooking best shared.