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Burmese Cafe: Jax Hts. host to novel SE Asian fare

Burmese Cafe straddles the border between Jackson Heights and Woodside on Roosevelt Avenue situated between little Manila and little India. Inside, a golden life-sized statue of the Buddha competes for your attention with a TV tuned to music videos of youthful Burmese artists performing gangsta rap in Burmese, replete with all the correct hand movements and baggy fashions.Burmese cooking incorporates the cuisines of its neighbors - India, China, Thailand, Bangladesh and adds "Shan" dishes - an indigenous people of Burma (now called Myanmar) and other parts of Southeast Asia. Spicy, sour and fishy are the prized flavors. The entrees are categorized as "Curries" (Indian/Thai influence) and "Burmese Style Chinese Food" (mostly stir fried). For lovers of Asian food, it is simultaneously uniquely different and familiar.Start off with some fried appetizers. Squash fritters, gram fritters (chick pea) or "Golden Triangles" (samosas - deep fried potato and vegetable turnovers in spring roll wrappers) with accompanying dips are all greasy, good eating. Indian-style breads (palarta = paratha, nan = naan) are served up with a tangy warm bean spread.Don't miss the duck soup (no, not the Marx Bros. movie). It's described as "duck and sour mustard" but forget the Grey Poupon. It's mustard greens we're talking about - an entirely different flavor. This is a sensational soup. The depth of the flavor of the broth is amazing. It is a touch sour, but complex and meaty and not at all spicy. They don't stint on the duck either. Share this one with your table.The wide range of salads is typical of Shan food, which commonly combines cooked, raw and pickled ingredients. There is a saying in Burma, "Of all fruit the best is the mango, of all meat it's pork, and of all leaves it's tea." So we jumped on the green tea leaf salad. This spicy melange combines fermented tea leaves, tomato, cabbage, sliced chili, peanuts, sesame seeds, fried garlic, dried shrimp lemon juice and fish sauce. It is refreshingly crunchy, sour and fishy, with a spicy bite.Picking up on the other two Burmese favorites, we ordered Pork and Mango Pickle Curry. Buddhist Burma is one of the few curry eating countries that favors pork. The pork in question arrived in large tender flawless chunks. No fat or gristle to be detected. The mangos were quartered whole, pit and all, and pickled. They combined well with the pork, adding a sweet and sour flavor (more sour than sweet) to the spicy curry. Their meat curries include three types of pork, chicken, beef or goat. They also offer butter fish or hilsha fish curries, two aquatic creatures from Bangladesh.For our Burmese Chinese offering, we opted for Hot and Dry Eel. We are confirmed eel lovers in all its manifestations, so we were confident that we couldn't go wrong with deep fried eel slices with onion scallion, masala and special spicy sauce. We were richly rewarded with a very rich spicy dish that needed plenty of rice to offset its spiciness.Burmese cakes are very dense. You can choose between banana, coconut, or cassava, or sample all three. They are more the consistency of a pudding, maybe bread pudding, than a cake, and not overly sweet. Wash your dessert down with Burmese Tea, or Myanmar Coffee (why Myanmar, not Burmese - who knows?), both of which are made with sweetened condensed milk and are sweet and thick.The Bottom LineBurmese Cafe is an exciting experience for those with an adventurous palate. The wait staff is friendly, obliging and fluent in English. For those who crave novelty in their diets, the Burmese Cafe has great stuff that you won't find anywhere else. At least not anywhere in New York City - yet.Burmese Cafe71-34 Roosevelt Ave., (corner 72nd Street) Jackson Heights718-803-1820Cuisine: BurmeseSetting: Tiny, decorated with Burmese artifacts.Service: Friendly, informative, fluent in EnglishHours: Lunch & Dinner dailyReservations: OptionalAlcohol: License pending, BYOBParking: StreetDress: CasualChildren: No menuMusic: Videos on TVTakeout: YesCredit Cards: YesNoise Level: AcceptableHandicap Accessible: Tight restroom would be tough to navigate with a wheelchair.A Sample from the MenuGram Fritter...$4.99Golden Triangle...$4.99Palarta (Indian style bread with special Burmese beans) $3.99Duck Soup...$6.99Green Tea Leaf Salad...$5.99Pork Curry...$4.99Hot and Dry Eel...$8.99

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