When Rangoon Kitchen opened at a new location, it was a welcome return for one of the few restaurants in the area that serves Burmese cuisine. The relocation comes with something new: a weekend lunch and dinner buffet, with a comprehensive selection of one of the most fascinating cuisines around.
If you think you aren’t familiar with the food from the country now known as Myanmar, you’ll be surprised how much of it you do know. With Thailand, India, China and Laos as neighbors, Burmese food incorporates elements you’ll recognize from those cuisines to create a unique yet recognizable blend of tastes and flavors. Dishes often combine sour, salty and sweet flavors into what could be called the ultimate fusion.
The restaurant itself has had a somewhat complicated history. Replacing Tokyo Lobby, a San Gabriel sushi spot fondly remembered by longtime SGV residents, Rangoon Kitchen also was known as Fuji West, with a few Burmese items alongside the Japanese and sushi menus. In August 2014, a full Burmese menu was adopted, along with a name change to Rangoon Kitchen.
We were ready to tell you about the restaurant — then it closed just two months after opening, with a note posted on the door that it would soon reopen at a new location. The months dragged on until, finally, word came that it had opened in West Covina. After our initial visit to the new location, another closure made us very nervous (it proved temporary and was due to water line construction).
With 17 to 22 items on weekends we visited, this is a buffet that can only be described as overarching. The choices can include coconut curry chicken noodle soup, ohn no khao swè, which is remarkably similar to the popular Northern Thai dish khao soi — with good reason, as it is considered to have predated and influenced the Thai dish. You might also find Myanmar’s national dish, mohinga, a catfish and rice vermicelli chowder. Other selections might include Night Market Noodles, chicken curry or a biryani. Then there’s Burmese-style tofu, golden yellow and made from garbanzo beans instead of soy beans. Salads (thokes) are another Burmese staple, and the weekend buffet features a panoply of them: tofu, rice noodle (kauk swe thoke), pork ear, shrimp, tomato, mohinga.
If you’re not into buffets, you can order à la carte, which is how to get two signature Burmese items: tea leaf salad (laphet thoke) and ginger salad.
Foodwise, West Covina is best known for an Indonesian food court next to the Hong Kong Market. With Rangoon Kitchen, there’s another dining reason to make the trek out the 10. Since our last visit, we've discovered the weekday buffet has been discontinued and the menu scaled back. This leads us to suggest trying out the buffet as soon as possible — before the arrival of even more changes.
Rangoon Kitchen (CLOSED), 510 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina; (626) 699-1142, rangoonkitchenwestcovina.com.