Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mexico, via Shan State

It's no secret among us former Angelenos that locating decent Mexican food in Asia can be a tough proposition. Finding it in Myanmar is even harder: The lone attempt by a Yangon hotel to offer the cuisine was abandoned in 2004, and after that even lousy Mexican food was no longer an option for dining out.

After a gap of about six years, along came an odd venture called Sai’s Tacos, a small Shan-Tex-Mex restaurant that opened in a residential area of Golden Valley.

Promising “a fiesta in every bite”, Sai’s Tacos offers a menu of burritos, quesadillas, tacos, chalupas, taco salads, chili cheese fries and more. Drinks are limited to soft drinks, hot and iced tea, coffee and water.

This is not fine dining, nor is it the dirt-cheap, authentic food one would find at a roadside burrito stand in East LA. It’s more like casual café dining, where the food is good enough but not brilliant.

Each table at Sai’s Tacos is furnished with pencils and paper menus for patrons to check off the main dishes they wish to order, as well as ingredient options. Burritos (K2700) can be ordered with chicken, pork or ground beef; different types of beans and rice; and sautéed onions, peppers and/or salsa. Cheese and sour cream can be added at extra cost.

Portions are adequate; many of my friends are happy with one burrito, but I usually require a chicken burrito plus a beef chalupa (K2000) to satisfy my hunger. Extra tummy space can be filled with tortilla chips (corn K3000, flour K1500), brownies (K800) or honey burritos (K800 for two).

Dining at Sai’s Tacos is generally sedate, although recorded mariachi music can sometimes be heard filtering through the speakers, and small herds of rambunctious American children occasionally pass through.

But I usually enjoy my burritos at home, swinging by the restaurant on my bicycle on my way back from work. The staff fill the orders fairly quickly, and they wrap each item in foil so they’re still toasty-warm when I get home.