Dagon: A New Burmese Restaurant in Honolulu

Tea leaf salad at Dagon

If there is one dish that is synonymous with Burmese cuisine—at least to Americans—it's the tea leaf salad, popularized by Burma Superstar in San Francisco. It attracts lines, Best Dishes food lists, and the Food Network. It's a colorful chopped salad of fermented tea leaves, dried shrimp, fried lentils, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, fried garlic and diced tomatoes, tossed table side with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Make sure to try it at Honolulu's new Burmese restaurant, Dagon. You won't forget the experience—it's extra crunchy, zingy and shot through with umami.

Left: Burmese Indian rice; right: Burmese lamb curry

Since Dagon opened between the long-shuttered Spices and Kokua Market, it's been packed with university professors and students. They come for Burmese cuisine, which is like Thai meets Indian. The Indian rice, which looks shredded Mexican cheese in its white-yellow-red medley, feels a little like chewing potpourri, thanks to the cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf, punctuated with raisins and cashews. A Burmese red curry, available with lamb, beef, fish or eggplant, is light on coconut milk, heavy on cardamom (and oil). Spooning the chunks of braised meat and sauce over the order of simple garlic noodles, is like a Burmese stroganoff—utterly comforting and satisfying. For a lighter dish, go with the vegetable kebat, a stir fry with a tart tamarind and masala sauce.

Left: Oh Noh Kauswe, a curry, coconut-milk chicken noodle soup; right: tofu, made with split peas instead of soybeans

Burmese food is not common in the U.S.—even in diverse culinary cities like New York or LA, you may find only one Burmese restaurant. San Francisco, though, has a handful; Dagon's owner, while originally from Burma, studied San Francisco's Burmese restaurants before opening his own place here. Now, Honolulu has its own, and from the looks of it, we're pretty excited about it.

Dishes $10.99 to $15.99
2671 S King St., 947-0088