At the beginning of 2020, Kalvin and Poe Myint — the owners of Northwest Portland and Beaverton restaurants Top Burmese — wanted to open a restaurant called Kyay Oh in their original location, where they started serving the menu at Top Burmese for takeout and delivery. The restaurant would focus on its namesake dish, a vermicelli noodle dish with meatballs and quail eggs.
While the pandemic thwarted their original plans, the two have brought back the family kyay oh at a new restaurant. Burma Joy, a new Burmese noodle bar on NW 23rd, specializes in popular Burmese noodle soups developed and popularized by Chinese immigrants in Myanmar. Willamette Week first reported the news.
When the Myints first opened Top Burmese, the menu focused on the Indian influences on Burmese cuisine, serving dishes like samosas and curries. However, Kalvin Myint always wanted to broaden the scope of what the family restaurants covered when it came to the dishes of Myanmar. “With our two previous restaurants, it’s mainly all the Indian dishes, but there’s this other side of Burmese cuisine that is Chinese inspired,” Kalvin Myint says. “Kyay oh is the staple here, but you’ll see more Chinese (Burmese) dishes here, plus spring rolls, that type of thing.”
Burma Joy’s kyay oh starts with a broth, made with chicken or a vegan version, before it’s topped with mustard greens, lotus and taro root, sweet potatoes, dried tofu curd, and wood ear mushrooms. The meat version comes with quail eggs and chicken meatballs. The dish is also available as a salad, a dry version of the dish with the soup on the side. However, unlike the original concept for the couple’s third restaurant, Burma Joy goes beyond the shop’s kyay oh when it comes to noodles. The shop’s punn thay noodles come tossed in a five-spice curry sauce with cabbage and tomatoes, which Kalvin Myint describes as “where Burmese, Chinese, and Indian cultures meet.” And the shop’s “majesty noodle soup” — the Myint’s take on kya zan hinga — combine glass noodles and a chicken or tofu broth, with a swirl of paprika and turmeric.
“At a ceremonial event — a wedding ceremony, an anniversary, things like that — that’s what we serve,” he says. “These are the dishes that we ate growing up, especially in Burma... the majesty noodles, in particular, those were the things we ate normally every day, in addition to the curries.”
Burma Joy is open for service indoors and out, as well as takeout and delivery, at 1305 NW 23rd Avenue.