More than meets the eye for Burmese cuisine in Buffalo

 

When you search Google Maps for Burmese restaurants in the city of Buffalo, you get exactly two choices. The first is Sun (1989 Niagara St.), which made the leap in 2012 from a grocery store with a few tables in the corner to a full-fledged restaurant with a chic ambiance as unique and inviting as its signature black rice sushi menu; and Lin (927 Tonawanda St.), which opened its doors in 2014, has attracted a lot of positive publicity for its flavorful Burmese and Thai fare at an affordable price.

More people each day are discovering the comforting, crowd-pleasing allure of this cuisine, which fuses distinct traditions from the kingdoms of Burma with outside influences from Chinese, Indian and Thai (sushi is a recent, western addition; more “authentic” are noodle, salad and curry dishes).

While Sun and Lin have put Burmese food on the map (literally) in Buffalo, there are several more options for Burmese in Buffalo, a city with a population of more than 10,000 Burmese Americans. Two spots in particular, both at West Side Bazaar, have been offering delicious, unique and affordable Burmese under the radar for years.

Kyel Sein Hein (25 Grant St.) is a satisfying and dependable alternative for no-fuss Burmese fare. The selection is plentiful and the prices are very, very right. They also offer a few nowhere-else-in-Buffalo dishes well worth the trip: to wit, the Shan Noodle ($5.99) can be served as either a soup or a standalone noodle dish with beans and peanuts, similar to a pad thai. Get it as a soup, and treat yourself to a rich, savory chicken and cabbage broth that balances the spicy-sour, kimchi-like pickle nicely.

The portions at Kyel are generous, the dishes unique yet casual, and the flavors are artfully balanced creating a subtlety with a lot of complexity beneath the surface.

Rakhapura Mutee and Sushi (25 Grant St.) has been at the West Side Bazaar since 2013. This is not austere sushi in the Japanese style–their rolls will appeal to anyone who likes their sushi bold and bountiful, with a savory, accessible fusion of flavors from all over Asia as well as the U.S.

Rakhapura combines Burmese-inspired flavors like banana and mango with mainstays of (western) sushi like cream cheese, crab and avocado for rolls that are as much tailored to a Buffalo audience as they are inspired by the proprietors’ native Arakan state of Burma. The signature Rakhapura Roll ($7.50) is a lunch; add in a Rainbow or Dragon roll ($7.50 each) and you’ve got a filling and satisfying meal that delivers big on taste.

In short: Burmese is the scene for those looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience in Buffalo. And Kyel and Rakhapura are two exciting and worthy up-and-comers on that scene. Consider either one–or both–next time you’re looking for an adventure. You won’t be disappointed.

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