In a less frequented part of Monterey Park, I'd expected Daw Yee to be a no frills hole in the wall - like many other restaurants that wear it's 'no decor' approach as a badge of honor vouching for its credibility and authenticity. The space was indeed tiny, but obvious care had been taken to balance a modern, clean and cozy environment with nods to Burmese culture in the form of ornate, towering urns. The kind of space I love, as you see the pride the owners take in the space - minus the pretentiousness or pandering too often exhibited in higher concept western translations of ethnic food.
Then there was the Myanmar Tofu ($5.50 for 6pcs) - a super simple but incredibly delicious dish of fresh tofu freshly made with chickpeas, and fried in the lightest of slabs to a golden brown crisp on the outside, and silky smooth inside.
Somebody else (clearly :P) ordered the Vegetables Sampler ($5.95) with cucumber, okra, cabbage, fresh mango, seasonal vegetables served with Balachaung (Burmese dried shrimp relish). LOVED the relish - with the garlic, shallots, shrimp paste and chilies, it was an addictive party-for-your-tastebuds blast of bold flavors. The veggies just served as canvas for the flavor-colorful dip.
You can't say you've had Burmese food until you've tried their national dish: Mohinga ($5.95) - rice noodles in catfish chowder. Knowledgeable friends advised that Daw Yee's is not the best rendition of mohinga, but it's tasty nonetheless and since we were already there and two of us had never had Mohinga, we had to try it. It was more of a soup than chowder, and delicious, but I think I kind of expected higher intensity - given the flavor-forward approach of the other dishes we'd had so far.
Aside from the restaurant, Daw Yee also has a few shelves of Burmese groceries along one wall for those interested in 'souvenir snacks' or buying some of the spices or tea leaves to try your hand at recreating the cuisine at home.
All in all, a fun way to experience a small taste of the culture without travelling all the way across the world (just a half hour or so drive from mid-city LA!). And super affordable as well - with every dish we tried under $10!
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 5.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 95%
Daw Yee Myanmar Café
111 N Rural Dr ., Monterey Park, CA 91755