Image: Rice, Shrimp, and Noodles
Last Updated: 6/29/2020
Current Status: The shop is doing limited Sunday service only. During brunch hours you can pick up breakfast tacos from the pop-up, La Tejana. Later in the day, the menu shifts to a Burmese fried chicken meal – $25 per person, take-out only. The double-fried quarter chicken comes dry-rubbed with turmeric, onion, garlic, and ginger; a choice of jasmine rice or fried rice studded with Chinese sausage; a choice between lahpet thoke (pickled tea leaf salad) or slaw; and a Burmese semolina cake with coconut creme and pineapple flower. Orders will be available for pickup from 4 to 7:30 p.m. There will also be some punch/cocktail choices.
According to the Laura Hayes article linked above, Thamee did not want to re-open until after it was clear there was not a second wave forcing a shutdown again. They have been cooking for World Central Kitchen through the Erik Bruner-Yang Power of 10 initiative.
You should also read owner Simone Jacobson’s piece on Eater.com where she talks about the frustration and fear of getting shutdown right as Thamee and other “Jungle Asian” places seemed to be breaking through to recognition and profitability.
And, don’t stop there, check out the interview with Thamee sommelier Erica Christian in Washingtonian.
Before Times Review (just before before times!):
First Visit: February 2020
In 2019, the team behind a stand at Union Market called Toli Moli made the leap to a full-fledged restaurant on H Street. The result is Thamee, and it has been a smashing success, racking up awards and acknowledgements (including a James Beard semifinalist nod this past week). It is currently the only place serving Burmese in the District and it is worth visiting.
While spice does play a role, it does not seem to be aggressive as cuisine from other countries in the region you may be familiar with like Thailand or Laos. On the dishes we tried it was more a bite than a burn. Some dishes came across as distinct and popping with flavor like the chicken with white flower mushroom. Others were less distinct, like the vegetable fritters are chunks of cauliflower and calabash squash (similar to zucchini) lightly battered with a light tamarind-soy sauce. The Pazun Hin with prawns comes in a deep red tomato and curry sauce that has elements of sweet and spice, though the prawns did seem overcooked. We agree with Tom (Washington Post) that the Mohinga of a curry broth and catfish chunks is “sheer comfort” in a mom’s cooking kind of way, though Limpert (Washingtonian) found it “too shy on flavor.” It adds up to a menu that can appease and appeal to a broad range of palates, though it may take a few visits to figure out the dishes that are in your sweet (or spicy) spot.
The drink list has cocktails derived from Burmese flavors, a handful of bottle beer options, and a few, somewhat off-beat, sparkling, white and red wine options.
The setting will prompt a sense of déjà vu for some. The subway tile and lay-out of previous occupant Sally’s Middle Name remain. Added to that white canvas is a large mural reminding you where you are, a metal wire sculpture hanging from the ceiling by local artist Curry Hackett that was inspired by the fishermen’s nets used by the Inle Lake leg rowers, and different table top designs from another local artist Jamilla Okubo based on Burmese tribal textiles. It adds up to a vibrant environment that matches the friendly service.
The home-style cooking and warm family tone is not manufactured. The cooking is done by Jocelyn Law-Yone who did not take up professional cooking until her sixties, opening this place with her daughter Simone Jacobson and business partner Eric Wang. Thamee takes its name for the Burmese word for daughter. (For those of a certain generation, you may now have an earworm courtesy of Pearl Jam, and if you don’t we share it with you now. Those even older may be thinking of something else.)
Other Guidance: The vibe is neighborhood casual. Come as you are (as long as we are re-living grunge). The menu clearly marks the GF, vegan options and warns for shellfish, nuts, and dairy. It is a thoughtful restaurant in more ways than one. The entrance is at street level with one small step up (ramp available). The bathrooms are on the same floor.
Washington Post: #10 in the 2019 Fall Dining Guide and a positive First Bite.