When the mood strikes for Thai food, or perhaps a favorite Indian buffet, a compromise combining the best of both worlds can be found at Burma Bistro in Santa Clara.

One of just a handful of Burmese restaurants in the South Bay, the strip-mall setup, adorned with photos of temples at sunset and net fishermen, highlights a cuisine influenced by Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Laotian and Thai.

My research began with the Palata and Dip ($6). Also known as paratha, this warm, tender and chewy flatbread comes with a side of coconut chicken curry. Sweet and savory are well-balanced, with the coconut leading but not overpowering the dish. Palata is comfort food, equal parts rich and homey, and the portion is just large enough to satisfy without overfilling.

Between appetizers and entrees, the Tea Leaf Salad ($10) provides a palate refresher. It’s noted on the menu as a “national favorite dish,” and basically it’s  a salad for people who don’t normally like salad. It’s savory, managing to taste almost meaty without actually containing any animal protein. A small quantity of shredded lettuce is tossed at the table with peanuts, dehydrated peas and beans, sesame seeds, toasted garlic and fresh tomatoes. The salad comes dressed with lime and fermented tea leaves mixed with a little fish sauce. The beans and toasted nuts give it a satisfying crunch.

With more than 20 entrees ranging from chicken to seafood, beef, vegetarian, and even goat, Burma Bistro has something for everyone. Those whose go-to is Pad Thai will love the Nan Ji Toke ($10), a warm rice noodle plate with chicken coconut curry. Raw red onions, fresh cilantro and lime add a tangy lightness to the dish, which is topped with crispy fried noodles for texture.

For a heavier entree, go with Manager Zaw Naw’s favorite, the Goat Stew with Dal ($14), which comes with a side of white rice to sop up gravy-like sauce. The dish’s Indian influences are clear, as the goat is cooked to a perfect tenderness in strong curry, and it’s served with the orange lentil dal mixed in. Crisp ginger lemonade ($3) is a good option to wash it down.

Naw says business has been going well since the little restaurant opened just six weeks ago. Lunchtime brings a steady stream of customers from nearby companies, and his aunt, who started the restaurant, chose the location because she felt there was a dearth of restaurants along El Camino.

“We want to spread our roots from here, ’cause there’s not that many Burmese people here,” Naw says. “We wanna give [customers] a taste of what Burmese food is like, so that they can see and then research our culture.”

Burma Bistro is at once familiar and surprising, an excellent spot for those with an adventurous palate. Service is fast and friendly, portions are reasonable, and they also offer take-out (no delivery) to savor these Burmese delicacies at home.

Burma Bistro
2135 El Camino Real, Santa Clara.