The first thing you’ll notice at Lime House, a Burmese-Japanese lunch and dinner outpost in Williamsville, are the splashes of color throughout the former Blu Bar and Grill space on Evans Street.
The curved bar area is washed top to bottom with LED lighting, while rainbow-hued parasol fans hang from the walls and ceiling. Two walls behind the main dining room, blank during the day, turn into cascades of white lights come dinnertime, when the dark wood tables are draped with white tablecloths.
These vibrant touches—indeed, the restaurant’s entire design—are the work of owner Sein Win, whose family originates from Myanmar. They have lived in Buffalo for nearly 20 years, and opened Lime House, their first restaurant, last fall.
Win’s eye for color helps him turn out vivid plates of Japanese-American fare, including sauce-drizzled sushi rolls and nigiri, tempura, ramen bowls and mochi dessert specials often rounding out Burmese menus in WNY. In the kitchen, his wife Thet Thet and daughter cook traditional Burmese comfort food.
At lunch recently, we enjoyed dishes that exemplify the country’s hearty cuisine, eschewing spiced heat in favor of slow cooking or stir frying punctuated with bright Asian notes such as lemongrass, fish sauce, fried garlic and fresh herbs.
All lunch specials are $8 or $9, including sushi rolls and mohinga, Myanmar’s beloved breakfast porridge that has become an all-day staple on Burmese menus. There are several curries (chicken, vegetable or egg), garlic noodles sautéed with chicken and green onion, stir fried noodles with chicken or vegetables, and “Mom’s Fried Rice” listed as “house made bean fried rice.” I’ll try that next time.
Service was friendly and prompt. We began with a pot of hot tea and, from the regular menu, tea leaf salad ($8), a uniquely Burmese appetizer of fermented green tea leaves tossed with crunchy cabbage, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds and soybeans, fried garlic and chopped tomato dressed with a dash of fish sauce. Packed with fresh textures and complex flavors, it was the one dish I thought about days later.
Next came a chicken curry with yellow potatoes and dark meat falling away from the bone, served with white steamed rice. Mild and unassuming, it helped drive off the rainy winter day.
Our server also brought an ample bowl of mohinga. Essentially fish chowder made with shrimp paste, banana plant stems and ground toasted rice or chickpeas, the Lime House version featured rice vermicelli, soft folds of onion, hard-cooked egg and a welcome kick of black pepper.
Side garnishes of hot pepper flake, lime wedges, cilantro and crunchy, fried bean fritters helped both dishes come alive.
A Salmon Firecracker roll ($9), built with raw salmon, cucumber, avocado, tempura crisps and lots of unagi sauce and spicy mayo, left us favoring the simplicity of the Burmese duo.
The regular menu starts with a mix of Burmese and Japanese appetizers, including seaweed salad ($4), homemade tofu salad ($8), summer rolls ($6) and a potato-onion samosa ($6).
For a well-balanced, affordable dinner, Burmese curries ($12-$16) come with lentil soup and rice. There’s also a seared salmon entree ($18), kyay oh ($14), a pork-broth noodle soup with homemade meatballs, and kat kyay kite, flat rice noodles with chicken and a spicy bean sauce ($12). A seasonal whole fried fish ($24) could break the Friday haddock rut.
The sushi list, prepped at the wine- and beer-only bar, features a variety of raw fish platters, including nigiri, sashimi and tataki ($16.95-$25.95), as well as chirashi and poke bowls ($19 and $14), tempuras ($6-$10) and specialty rolls ($12.95 and up). There are also cooked, raw or vegetarian options for maki, hand rolls, noodles and rice.
It’s encouraging to see Buffalo’s Burmese food scene continue to expand, giving suburban diners a chance to drop in for a bite of something different and delicious.
INFO: Lime House, 424 Evans Street, Williamsville. Phone: 276-3522. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday, 12-9:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Drop-off lunch (10 orders or more), on- and off-site catering, special events and takeout. Happy-hour food and drink specials (beer and wine), 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
*Look back at The News' full list of Starters posts.