Burmese is one of the lesser known cuisines nationally, but the Bay Area is blessed with several stand-out restaurants serving Burmese fare, including but not limited to Burma Superstar, Grocery Café, and Burma Bear. I chose to visit a relatively new addition to the group but one that has been widely praised for its fresh take on Burmese food: Teni East Kitchen. Founder and head chef Tiyo Shibabaw gained valuable experience and a genuine love for the cuisine working at Burma Superstar for years, and in 2016, she decided to branch out on her own with Teni East Kitchen in Oakland. The restaurant sits in the ultra-hip and increasingly-gentrified Temescal neighborhood, on Broadway, just north of 40th Street.

The Ambience and Service

The dining area is spacious, contemporary, and warm, a feeling enhanced by the dark wood furniture and floors, leather-backed seating, purple mural against the largest wall, and large windows that provide abundant natural light during the day. My primary server was down-to-earth, extremely friendly, and talkative without being overbearing. She gave off the vibe that “I assume you are knowledgeable of Burmese food and have eaten here before, but I can provide a ton of insight if you ask for it.” I made it known it was my first time there, and she filled me in on some of regular diners’ favorite dishes and how much is typically enough for one person to order. As an added bonus, a second server mixed my tea leaf salad in front of me while naming each of the ingredients. This simple act ramped up the “this place is classy” feel for me.

The Food

The salad my server mixed for me was the Tea Leaf Kale Salad, and it tasted amazing. The base of the salad is a mix of baby kale and cabbage, which tasted like they were freshly picked from a garden. Fermented tea leaves crushed into a paste sits on top of the fresh greens, with toasted garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds crowding the perimeter of the plate. Once tossed, the fermented tea leaves coats every piece of kale, and every bite seems to capture every ingredient. The resulting combinations of flavors and textures will be blazed into my memory for the foreseeable future. If every salad in my life was this moving, I’d probably weigh 25% lighter. The funny thing is, judging from other reviews and diners’ dishes around me, it looks like this salad may be less favored than the Pea Shoot Salad. There’s no way it could taste just as incredible…or could it?

My second dish was the Coconut Chicken, which consists of a bone-in thigh stewed in a fragrant coconut curry sauce with marbled potatoes, onion, and a bay leaf. It was accompanied by a bowl of coconut rice. The juiciness of the dark meat and rich sauce absorbed by the sticky rice made for a few pleasurable bites.

Conclusion

Teni East Kitchen provides a top notch, start-to-finish dining experience, from the friendly and helpful staff to the exceptional dishes. Even if you are familiar with Burmese food or a fan of the other Burmese staples in the area, I encourage you to visit Teni East Kitchen. While the flavors will be familiar, I am confident you’ll find that the freshness and quality of ingredients, innovation, and level of service to shoot to the top of your Burmese restaurant experiences.

MORE INFO ON TENI EAST

Want to Visit Teni East?

Teni East

4015 Broadway

Oakland, CA 94611

(510) 597-1860

www.tenieastkitchen.com 

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