Tea (Leaf) Time

Daw Yee Myanmar Café elevates a Burmese specialty

The tea-leaf salad ($7) at Daw Yee Myanmar Café, a cheery new Burmese restaurant in Monterey Park, is almost too gorgeous to toss.

Deconstructed into a mosaic of colors and textures, it's dashed with fish sauce and spices until profoundly funky. Made with a handful of fried garlic, toasted seeds, peanuts, tomato, chopped cabbage, diced chile, and a lump of bitter fermented tea leaves, the final product is as delicious as it looks.

Owner Delyn Chow might even mix your salad tableside, perhaps while regaling you about his experiences with the dish during trips to Myanmar.

Chow is a second-generation Burmese chef; the recipes he cooks are his mother's. That doesn't mean he doesn't have an eye for the modern. "I'm interested in molecular gastronomy," he explains, "and featuring work from local artists in the dining room."

For now, though, Daw Yee is a concentrated taste of home for Monterey Park's small but dedicated Burmese community. The essentials? Start with crunchy samosas ($5) or kimla platha ($6), a chewy fried flatbread stuffed with minced chicken, then slurp a bowl of mohinga ($6), a velvety noodle soup thickened with catfish and coconut milk that is often considered Burma's national dish.

How that tea-leaf salad didn't end up as the national dish, we'll never understand.