With its innumerable varieties — developed by way of roasting, fermenting, oxidizing, and flavoring — it’s a wonder that all tea leaves stem from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. Traveling throughout the world, a pot of tea may consist of a grassy and vegetal sencha in Japan, a smoky lapsang souchong in China, a sweet and delicate ceylon in Sri Lanka. That diversity of flavor, all stemming from the same plant, was the inspiration for restaurateurs Kalvin and Poe Myint’s next restaurant, coming to Beaverton this spring. Old Asia will open this April in the former Beaverton chamber of commerce building with more than 100 types of loose-leaf tea and a pan-Asiatic menu anchored by dishes seen in Singaporean, Malaysian, and Burmese cuisine.
Many Portlanders may know the Myints as the owners behind the Top Burmese group of restaurants. With this new venture, just six blocks away from their Beaverton restaurant Bistro Royale, they will branch out into Asian cuisines beyond Burmese for the first time, using tea as a through line.
“In any Asian cuisine and culture, tea is sort of central to it,” Kalvin Myint says. “Tea was the caffeine fix for us because coffee culture wasn’t in Burma while we were growing up. And when we were kids in high school and university, my parents would actually feed us tea leaf salad during all night studying.”
Tea will be served by the pot, in flights (where diners can compare oolong teas from China vs. India vs. Sri Lanka, for example), and in drinks like Burmese milk tea and Hong Kong-style tea, and will also appear in cocktails and mocktails developed by the Top Burmese bar staff. “There’s a lot of similarities between wine and tea,” Kalvin Myint says. “Different regions, different soil, the weather... it all affects how tea tastes. We want to present tea in that fashion.”
The beverage menu will be accompanied by seven or eight small plates, although the restaurant will serve substantial entrees such as Singaporean chicken rice, Burmese biryani, and stir-fried Malaysian noodle dishes on a rotating basis. Lahpet, or Burmese fermented tea leaves, will land on the menu in different applications rather than the well-known tea leaf salad lahpet thoke. For instance, Top Burmese folded lahpet into dumplings during the recent Dumpling Week.
The Myints’ venture into different cuisines was inspired by their multicultural upbringings in Burma. “In Portland and Beaverton, we see a lot of representation for Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, but you don’t really see a lot of representation of other Southeast Asian cuisines,” Kalvin Myint says. Myint’s wife Poe is developing the food menu, with recipes and cooking techniques passed down from her mother and grandmother.
“Tea shops are everywhere in [Burma], with the short tables,” Kalvin Myint says. “It’s relatively inexpensive to get a cup of tea and something to eat and then move on with your day or hang out.”
The building’s small 768-square-foot blueprint will be supported by an outdoor wooden tea pavilion decked out with a koi pond and bonsai trees; indoor seating will have a capacity of around 20 while outdoors will have double the amount. The Myints intend to keep the outdoor seating open year-round, and plan to have live music.
“[With] all the struggles that every business goes through as a small business, we see this building — the chamber of commerce — as a place where many dreams sprouted,” Kalvin Myint says.
Old Asia Bistro and Teahouse will open at 12055 SW 1st Street.