If you’re a D.C. restaurant it usually behooves you to serve brunch because this city is hellbent on having it. But what if you’re a Burmese restaurant? As Thamee co-founders Simone Jacobson and Jocelyn Law-Yone explain, there’s really no meal that combines breakfast and lunch in Burma (now Myanmar) where Law-Yone grew up. “Breakfast is really important,” Law-Yone says. She’s the head chef of the restaurant. “The early morning people come out, the sun is shining, and you just want to smell the food and get something that’s good for you.”
Knowing this, the mother and daughter team at the H Street NE restaurant that replaced Sally’s Middle Name earlier this spring carefully arranged its brunch menu launching Saturday into five sections. It captures both Burmese breakfast staples and modern brunch dishes along with small snacks, sides, and sweets from recently appointed pastry chef Rabia Kamara of Ruby Scoops.
Order a la carte or decide to pay $35 for bottomless alcoholic drinks, one selection from the snack section, and one dish from either the Thamee brunch or the Burmese breakfast mains. The bottomless option has a 90-minute time limit and the whole table must participate.
Brunch cocktails include mimosas with freshly pressed sugarcane or mango juice, tamarind punch, and a play on the hangover curing term “hair of the dog,” called “Hair of the Tiger.” For a short time period during her childhood in Rangoon, Law-Yone had two pet tigers that were eventually re-homed at the zoo. “I got to see them and romp around with them,” she says. The drink is a play on a bull shot, which replaces the tomato juice in a Bloody Mary with beef broth. Thamee will use pepper water, a tamarind and lentil-based soup, that isn’t unlike Indian Mulligatawny.
Thamee’s zero-proof brunch drinks are just at carefully sourced or concocted. There’s Loyalty french press coffee from woman-owned Nguyen Coffee Supply, which sources its beans from Vietnam and roasts them in Brooklyn. There will also be Burmese Assam milk tea with condensed milk and butterfly limeade with basil seeds and mint.
Must-order dishes from the food menu include a stunningly yellow tofu made from chickpea curd with texture that isn’t unlike a Japanese omelet (tamago) called shan tofu; fried head-on prawns served with congee loaded with lemongrass flavor; and a catfish “hash brown” that gets bundled up in banana leaves and grilled before it’s served with fried eggs and an heirloom tomato salad. “It’s really good quality catfish that’s mixed with fermented rice and a lot of spices,” Law-Yone explains. “It has a real bite to it.”
Diners can also try the Burmese dish Law-Yone, Jacobson, and third Thamee co-founder Eric Wang, previously sold at their burmese bodega and Toli Moli in Union Market—lahpet thoke. (The bodega only sells falooda and dumplings now). Thamee is getting the tea leaves for the pickled tea leaf salad from Burmese-based, husband-and-wife company Burgundy Hills.
“We’re the only people in the U.S. to work with Burgundy Hills,” Law-Yone says. “Once you taste them, you’ll see they’re far superior than all the others.” View the full menu and more photos below. A la carte prices coming soon.
Thamee is going for a very specific vibe with its brunch service. “In a country that was so caught off from the rest of the world that prohibited the assembly of its people, tea shop culture became a very big deal,” Jacobson says. “It was the only place that people could go and talk and be together. If Burma is famous for anything, it’s the tea leaves themselves and the tea shop-culture that is so much a part of the social fabric.”
“I want [diners] to feel like somebody cared enough to make a meal for them and cared enough about them,” Law-Yone says. “We have an open kitchen so people can see us. I want them to come in and taste a little taste of Burma.”
Starting this weekend, brunch will be offered Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays that are federal holidays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are available on Resy.
Thamee, 1320 H St. NE; (202) 750-6529; thamee.com