A salad for lunch can be light and it can feel refreshing. Rarely does the dish actually deliver its own buzz. But that is one of the attributes of a salad called lahpet. It’s built around fermented tea leaves, which lend the kick behind the beguiling pungency of the dish.
Lahpet is a staple back in its native Burma, or Myanmar, the political name for the country. And in New Orleans, lahpet is the namesake dish of a pop-up eatery with unique ties back to the source material for its Burmese flavor.
Lahpet has been making regular appearances around town, usually setting up in coffee shops. Now it has a more stable residency thanks to a different take on the pop-up concept.
Lahpet now runs a regular weekday lunch service at Milkfish. That’s the Filipino restaurant in Mid-City, right there by Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue. While Lahpet serves its small, abundantly fresh menu of traditional Burmese dishes at lunchtime, Monday to Friday, Milkfish continues to roll out its full Filipino menu at dinner, every night but Wednesday.
Got that straight? Yes, this arrangement does have the potential for some confusion, but it so pairs two outlets for robustly flavorful, previously unrepresented cuisines in our city under one roof. It’s a uniquely cooperative endeavor that both Lahpet and Milkfish are feeling out as they go. And it fits the character of each eatery, which have developed a bit differently from the restaurant industry norm.
Milkfish started as a pop-up. It’s founder borrowed restaurant space from a succession of supportive chefs around town. Since her Filipino restaurant went permanent at its own Mid-City address, she’s been paying her gratitude forward by regularly opening the space to other new pop-ups.
Lahpet was in that number. And this eatery has its own back story. Lahpet is closely related to a nonprofit called One World Family, which supports Burmese children living in refugee villages in Thailand. The pop-up was formed to help fund that work, devoting a portion of its proceeds back to One World Family.
So what is Burmese cuisine? Well, it reflects some influences of its region – especially Thai, Chinese and Indian cooking -- but it has its own distinctive niche. At Lahpet, menus are organized around fried snacks, like samosas or split pea fritters; then intricate, jungly salads; and more substantial curries or grilled meats.
The natural starting point is also the concept’s namesake, that tea leaf salad, centered on soft, dark bits of leaves. They have an intense, sour savor, and a moist earthiness crossed with a beguiling pungency. It’s a flavorful tour de force, and a dish that’s both refreshing and invigorating, thanks to the caffeine in the leaves.
So, here’s what to remember: in the evenings, Milkfish rolls out its full Filipino menu, with its own traditional blend of Spanish, Chinese and Indonesian cooking. There’s hearty chicken adobo, crisp, narrow lumpia eggrolls, rich stews and lighter stir fries, lots of pork and its own namesake dish, milkfish, a dense, highly flavorful Pacific catch.
At lunch, Lahpet brings the Burmese flavors. Put them together and you have a fascinating test case in restaurant cooperation, one that’s bringing tastes of the exotic and something new to the table.
125 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-267-4199