- Photo by Mark Lee.
Last month The New York Times ran a piece called "In Indianapolis, the World Comes to Eat," detailing our vibrant international eateries on West 38th Street and beyond, including a Burmese restaurant in Greenwood. Lest NYT scoop NUVO, we hightailed it south, a smooth ride on I-65, to a strip mall west of Greenwood Park Mall.
A glance at Kimu's concise menu of curries, stir-fries, and pho indicates that Burmese food is an amalgam of Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian influences. Our challenge was set: to taste the most Burmese items on the menu.
The first revelation: Burmese Sweet Hot Tea ($1.50). I can't recall drinking anything this exciting. Its hue was a sumptuous caramel and its texture milky-thick. One sip was pleasingly bitter, the next sweet, by turns evoking chai, chocolate and chicory. I'll return to Kimu for this kaleidoscopic tea alone.
An appetizer called Samusa (six pieces for $2.99) was the Burmese version of the meat pie — thankfully found in most every culture. A mixture of shredded chicken, potatoes and onion came in a wonton-like wrapper; we dipped them in a runny bright orange hot sauce. Tofu Kyaw ($2.99) were simply fried tofu squares served with the same sauce.
Our young server told us that her uncle, the owner, came to Indiana circa 2002, worked as a sushi chef, then took the leap to open Kimu four months ago. This info inspired us to order Tuna Nigiri (2 pieces for $3.50) and Caterpillar Sushi (about 12 pieces for $7.50). The tuna looked artificially pink, but the caterpillar sushi pleased both eye and palate with an artful arching arrangement and a contrast of cream cheese with crunchy sesame seeds.
We ordered a strategic variety of entrees on the advice of our server. My Kyeoo Soup ($8.95) was an earthy pho with a motley cast of characters: pork tongue, imitation crab, mini meatballs, quail eggs and bright bokchoy chards reaching toward harmony in a cloudy broth with rice noodles. It was better for lunch the next day.
Our friend Robert's entrée, Combo Fried Rice ($8.95), was the most innocuous of the meal. Delicate jasmine rice, bits (and I do mean bits) of well-scrambled eggs, pork, chicken and beef made for comfort food without much oomph.
Husband Joe's entree won the jackpot for Most Burmese, and best overall. Pork with Pickel Mango ($8.95) was a dazzling dish of pork shards caramelized in a honey-soy sauce, stir-fried up with green onions and electrifying chunks of pickled mango, served with a mound of white rice. Another instance of complex, contrasting flavors that I began to suspect as a trademark of Burmese cuisine.
There's no dessert, but Kimu does serve breakfast, including Pee Puri (fried pastry stuffed with ginger, anise and pea paste, $1.50) and EiGyaKywe (a cruller, $1.50).
We can credit Kimu's existence to the roughly 8,000 Burmese nationals who have fled ethnic persecution and now call Indy home, with assistance from groups such as Exodus Refugee Immigration. Welcome to Indianapolis, where the world comes to taste the wonders of Burmese sweet tea.