Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mingalaba - Burmese restaurant in Burlingame

Mingalaba Restaurant
1213 Burlingame Avenue,
Burlingame, CA

I had a planned a surprise day in the City for V last weekend. It started off with a stroll, and a picnic lunch at the beach at Crissy Field followed by a play at Union Square. Although it has been an unusually chilly late-April, the weather cooperated with us through the day and we had a wonderful time. Dinner venue of my picking was Minako Organic Japanese restaurant in Mission. We have not been there, although we have been to the nearby Cha-Ya, another Japanese vegetarian restaurant in Mission. However V decided that it was his turn to surprise me and asked me to allow him to drive us to the dinner venue. We landed up at Mingalaba in downtown Burlingame around 6 in the evening. V has been here for lunch, but I have not been here before. He promised that I would like it even better than Burma Superstar (BSS) in the city that was recommended by our friends, P&V.

The wait wasn't too bad. We put our names on the wait list, strolled around the downtown shops, and the table was ready for us by the time we decided it was getting too chilly to walk around. The line grew longer as the evening progressed and smiling waiters carried out trays of drinks to folks waiting outside - nice touch! The interior is tightly packed, but pleasant, and the service is really outstanding. Eventhough they were pretty busy, each table got a lot of attention from the smiling waiters.

Food-wise, yes, it was better than BSS! We ordered the tea-leaf salad to start with. Just this alone convinced me of V's claim. Tea-leaf salad has a variety of delicious ingredients tossed at the table by your waiter. The ingredients are fermented tea-leaves (may prove difficult to find at the stores here), chopped tomatoes, fried garlic slivers, fried peanuts, fried lentils, and shredded greens like cabbage or lettuce, oil and lime juice. The crunchy texture of fried peanuts mixed with the slightly sour tea leaves is unbeatable. Apparently this is a signature dish at all Burmese restaurants.

We also ordered the samusa soup which again hit the spot. Samusas, a variant of Indian samosas, are fried pastries with vegetable filling. This spicy soup has broken-up samusas, falafel (lentil dumplings), and green chilies. It was infact quite filling and we were almost going to call it a day when the main course of "Burmese-style curry" with the side of rice arrived at the table. This is made of lentils and a number of vegetables like squash, eggplant, cauliflower, and so on. Reminded us of South-Indian "sambar", especially when eaten with rice but I don't think this has tamarind which is a major ingredient in sambar.

We left quite happy. Portion sizes are pretty average, not too big, but we did take home some leftovers. Service, as mentioned before, is outstanding. The bill came to around $35 with tax and tip for the two of us. We must go back with P&V.

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