Yoma Burmese Restaurant

After a long lapse, Boston gets another fine taste of a rare cuisine
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  June 24, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

Soups are common here, but hidden among the long list of noodles and side dishes. Vegetable soup TheeSoneHin ($5.95) is a combination of chickpeas, potatoes, and winter melon in a vegan broth that somehow evokes the chicken soups of the Andes. That winter melon might be a lagenaria longissima gourd, which we sampled in "Royal long squash" ($10.95), where it is a bland foil to a nice mild curry (if you order it as such). That dish also featured shrimp, chunks of pork, and a hint of lemongrass.

The spiciest entrée I tried was pork and potato curry ($9.25). It wasn't a large, but I needed every bit of the cup of sticky white long-grain rice (not so aromatic as Thai jasmine rice, but similar), and most of a side dish of coconut rice ($3.95) to dampen the heat, which made it savory and filling. "Joyful Eggplant" ($11.95) is a stew of chunks of eggplant, shrimp, and pork in a light tomato sauce flavored by fried onions. "Happy Chicken" would have been an overdose of Prozac, so we went with the rather nondescript tofu noodle entrée ($7.95).

Yoma has no liquor license, but will serve the usual sodas and Asian fruit nectars. "Lychee jelly drink" ($2) was quite refreshing, and a good antidote to pepper. Water was refilled frequently.

Traditional semolina-coconut triangles, known as SaNwinMaKin ($2.75), are the primary dessert here, though I found them to be stodgy. Green-tea and ginger ice creams ($2.75) are also available. The former always gets me with the combination of slight astringency and sweetness; the latter is tinted brown, looks like chocolate, and tastes like the fresh root.

Despite an early bad review on service, I found the staff during both my visits to respond accurately and reasonably quickly for a small kitchen. The décor is a surprisingly mellow mix of yellow, pink, red, and green with maroon quarry tile. Tables are Plexiglas over white tablecloths, like the early Thai restaurants. The room features a four-way ceiling mural of a vast city, with more predictable folk art on the walls.

In a small storefront, the atmosphere changes by the hour. One night there was a long table of apparent Burmese-American students. Another night, two EMTs came in late and ordered everything hot. I figured they were Cajun refugees, but it turned out they were enthusiasts of Thai food and figured, "why not?" Why not, indeed — especially for vegans, those who like it spicy, or anyone with a big taste for adventure and a modest budget.

Robert Nadeau can be reached atrobtnadeau@aol.com.

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