Burma Superstar - San Francisco, California
I considered posting more about my daily adventures in San Francisco, but I decided not to. Therefore, I have two more reviews and then I'm done.
This was the second most anticipated meal of my trip. No matter what, I just had to come here. The last time I had Burmese food was when I lived in New York back in the mid-90s. The restaurant was in the East Village on East 7th Street, I think, close to all the wonderful Indian restaurants. Anyone from New York know if it's still around? As I was doing research on this place, I discovered that Burma Superstar did not take reservations. So when we arrived there at about 7:15 pm, there was a line of people waiting to get in.
After we had written our names down on the sign up sheet right inside the door, we came back outside to wait. All the while, we had to endure the scent of the delicious food that escaped through the open door. After talking to some of the folks standing there, we discovered that those with larger parties (4 and up) had already been waiting for about an hour!
After waiting for close to 50 minutes for a table ourselves, we were finally seated. Once inside, I found the restaurant to be packed full of people, with just a small space to maneuver between each table.
After carefully reviewing the menu, we decided to start with the la pot dok (tea leaf salad, US$7.75).
This salad contained a number of ingredients -- sunflower seeds, split yellow beans, fried garlic slices, peanuts, white sesame seeds, minced dried shrimp, cut green chillies, lettuce, tomatoes, fermented tea leaves and lemon juice. As our Burmese server tossed the salad, we found that the restaurant imports the fermented tea leaves directly from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
Add a bit of lemon juice, and let the tossing begin.
I must say that the combination of flavors and the textures of the various ingredients was just wonderful. The salad had the right amount of spiciness and crunch, with the flavor of the fermented tea leaves being the standout. This was something that I could definitely enjoy over and over again.
Here is one of the dishes we ordered. OK, I've looked over all my notes and I cannot, for the life of me, find where I wrote down the name and price of this dish so you will all just get a description.
The only way for me to describe this dish is to say that it was like an Indian-style chicken biryani. In this "casserole" were two pieces of chicken that were quite tender -- when I removed the drumstick, the meat fell off of the bone. It was buried in some biryani-style rice that contained golden raisins. The dish was then garnished with a few green peas and slivered almonds. I have to say that I liked this dish, however, as we ate our way to the bottom, we found that there was quite a bit of gravy there. I would have preferred this dish "dry". Both the chicken and rice were flavorful, however, I felt that it could have been a bit spicier.
I sent an e-mail to Burma Superstar about this dish and am awaiting a response. Once I get the information, I will update this post with the proper name of this dish, as well as the price.
The last dish to arrive was the beef kebat (US$9.75).
This was stir-fried flank steak with onions, tomatoes, green chillies and mint leaves. This dish had a mild flavor and I enjoyed the combination of mint, tomatoes and beef. The beef was really "smooth" and was quite tender -- in fact, it was almost too tender. To be quite honest, I was hoping for a bit more flavor, and spiciness in this dish. I also felt that the tomatoes were a bit overcooked. This was my least favorite dish of the night.
Since we had discovered the "gravy" at the bottom of the chicken dish, we ordered one platha on the side (US$2.50) to soak it all up.
According to the menu, this is an Indian influenced pan-fried layered bread. It was layered quite thick and was crispy on the outside, and chewy/doughy on the inside. It was quite nice actually, but I think I prefer the Indian paratha better.
For dessert it was the coconut custard fritters with coconut ice cream (US$6.50).
Inside each of the three fritters was the coconut custard. The crunchiness of the outer "shell" provided a nice foil to the smooth, creamy custard that lay within. The coconut ice cream and fresh sliced strawberries served to further enhance this dessert. I can see why this is the restaurants top seller.
As we were leaving (a little after 9:30 pm), we realized that the line was still there, only there were quite a few new faces. And even though it had passed the restaurant's closing time, no one in line was turned away. In fact, the waitresses went outside to take orders from those still standing in line, promising them a table once one became free. How's that for service?
I'm not certain about the authenticity of all the dishes that I tried here, but I am certain that the quality of the food ranged from average to very good, with the highlights being both the la pot dok and the coconut custard fritters. The only low point for me was the beef kebat.
Would I come here again? Absolutely. The waitstaff is pleasant and accomodating. For example, when it was explained to the hostess that we wanted to sit near the window so that we could take pictures of the food, she never questioned us or asked us why. We did end up with the window seat and without an additional wait time. Our server was happy to tell us something about the dishes we were eating, and the waitress was more than happy to make some recommendations.
309 Clement Street
San Francisco, California