When strolling through the farmers market, Portlanders in the know often stop at the Rangoon Bistro stand, where David Sai, Alex Saw, and Nick Sherbo serve Burmese thokes (salads) often made with produce sourced from farm stands a few stalls away. Sai and Saw, who grew up in Myanmar, have cooked together for years all over the world — they met in Malaysia, and reunited in Portland in the kitchen of Bollywood Theater; Rangoon Bistro was their homage to Myanmar, informed by their years of global culinary experience. About a year ago, they began cooking out of the Gotham Building commissary, operating as a takeout-only restaurant during the markets’ off-season. But takeout was never meant to be the finish line for Rangoon Bistro — they wanted their own space.
“Some people really like nice plating, good presentation, good atmosphere,” Saw says. “When you go in a place, it feels like your home, you know?”
Soon, Sai, Saw, and Sherbo will have a room of their own: Rangoon Bistro is opening a permanent restaurant within the Breathe Building in Southeast Portland next year.
Rangoon Bistro’s menu will always rely on seasonal produce — it’s a founding tenet of the business — but the restaurant will also have a standing, core menu year-round, made up of noodle dishes, thokes, fried snacks, and rice dishes. There will always be a tea leaf salad on the menu, as well as ginger and locally foraged pennywort thokes. “We’ve made pennywort salads for catering orders, but we just found a person who can forage wild pennywort,” Sherbo says. “It’s a leafy green salad — you don’t often see leafy greens in Burmese thokes, but this one is really traditional.”
The noodle menu will include dishes like garlicky si chet khao swe with pork and mushroom and large steamed pork and squash dumplings, as well as tofu nway, a warm tofu made with chickpeas. That house-made chickpea tofu is also served fried, alongside other fried snacks like pakora and Mandalay bean fritters. Rounding out the menu will be a Burmese version of biryani known as dan bauk, the tomato-y pounded rice dish shan htamin, and a pork and pickled mango curry. When it comes to beverages, Rangoon Bistro will offer a limited cocktail menu still in development, as well as coconut milk and tea.
The seasonal dishes will still source from Oregon farms, often in thokes — Rangoon Bistro devotees have become particularly enamored with Saw’s tomato and stonefruit thokes in the summertime, a dish specific to Rangoon Bistro. “We’re not really looking to be authentic,” Saw says. “We’re using the same flavors, but we’re doing it in a modern way.”
Rangoon Bistro will open within the Breathe Building, at 2305 SE 50th Avenue.