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Burma Superstar


philadining
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Burma Superstar

309 Clement St. (Between 4th and 5th Avenues)

San Francisco

415-387-2147

www.burmasuperstar.com

I know this restaurant has gotten a few mentions here and there, I remember seeing that Carolyn went recently, but seriously, this place is so good it really needs a thread!

There's a very good restaurant called Rangoon in Philadelphia where I live, but as authentic as it seemed I didn't really have anything to compare it to - Burmese restaurants seem to be few and far-between in the states. So I'd been looking forward to trying Burma Superstar for some time.

I was not prepared for the crowds lining up for this place, even on a (typical) damp, windy, chilly night, people were tolerating waits of over an hour and a half. They say that they don't take reservations, but I witnessed people calling in and at least getting on the list. I didn't have to wait quite that long, but it was close to an hour, which gave me an opportunity to wander the neighborhood a bit. I must say I was tempted by several interesting spots within a few blocks on Clement, but I was on a mission...

I started with Ginger Salad

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It was presented as attractive, discrete piles of the various components: julienned ginger, shredded romaine, sesame seeds, crunchy fried yellow dal, peanuts, and fried sliced garlic. Sadly I wasn't quick enough on the draw to get a photo of that, before the waiter tossed it all together. This was a little bit less-intense than the version I get in Philly, but perhaps equally delicious, I would have a very hard time not ordering this every time. Interesting side-note, it's my understanding that ginger salad is traditionally eaten as a dessert in Burma.

Beef Kebat

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Very high-quality, tender slices of beef, stir-fried with onions and a few chunks of tomato, in a moderately spicy, minty sauce. I loved this, although the dish somehow got progressively saltier, to the point where I really had to stop. No matter, i was stuffed anyway, but I'm not even sure how that can happen... Still, I'd risk it again.

To accompany: Coconut rice

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This had nice flavor, especially the spoonfuls that included some sweet, fried shallot. It was the perfect soothing compliment to the spice of the kebat, even though the rice was a touch overdone, mushy in spots.

and Platha

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This might have been really good when it was fresh and hot, but sadly the one I got was cold and just didn't taste like much. I'm not sure if that's just how they serve them, but it wasn't nearly as good as a similar fried bread thing I get at Rangoon here in Philly, or any Indian-style breads, when they're fresh and hot. Nonetheless, it made a decent scoop for some beef and sauce, so it didn't go to waste!

Despite the absolute crush of people, service was prompt and extremely friendly. They were even nice to me even though I was a single-diner killing a table at prime time.

Interestingly, they've opened a second place, a few blocks lower on Clement, called B-Star. It's more of a bar/lounge kind of place, with a much smaller space and more limited menu, but it might be a good alternative on those crazy busy nights, or just as a spot to grab a drink and a bite.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I love their fermented tea leaf salad.

I've not been to Burma, but heard that there's actually lettuce in the tea leaf salad. Is that true? My friend's mom used to make that all the time but she never used lettuce. Her version is like the one at Mandalay a few blocks away.

BTW, people told me that Mandalay is very much like Burma but without the long wait. It's worth a try if you enjoy Burmese food.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I live about 4 blocks away from it and this place is surprisingly mediocre, attracting more easily-impressed scenesters desperate to be seen than fans of Burmese food. If you feel as though you're not paying enough for salt then I can see standing around waiting for a table all evening while you call all your friends on your cell phone to tell them that you're standing around waiting for a table all evening, but otherwise you can do much better for much cheaper all over the city.

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I live about 4 blocks away from it and this place is surprisingly mediocre, attracting more easily-impressed scenesters desperate to be seen than fans of Burmese food. If you feel as though you're not paying enough for salt then I can see standing around waiting for a table all evening while you call all your friends on your cell phone to tell them that you're standing around waiting for a table all evening, but otherwise you can do much better for much cheaper all over the city.

I know of Mandalay, but are there others "all over the city" that you can tell us about?

I guess I am taking a bit of offense as I am hardly a "scenester" to the point that I deliberately only dine here for lunch - thereby avoiding the standing around waiting for a table - and have enjoyed my half-a-dozen meals there.

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I guess I am taking a bit of offense as I am hardly a "scenester" to the point that I deliberately only dine here for lunch - thereby avoiding the standing around waiting for a table - and have enjoyed my half-a-dozen meals there.

You're right, I should not have drawn so insensitive a dichotomy in my assessment of Burma Superstar's sidewalk clogging clientele. The hype surrounding the establishment definitely draws more than its fair share of soccer mom sommeliers and other assorted yuppies who are afraid of "spicy" food, too. Doesn't mean you don't have the right to enjoy as many meals as you like there, but when an Asian restaurant in a predominantly Asian neighborhood fails to attract many Asians, you do have to wonder what's going on. Even this supposedly glowing review was full of terms such as "salty," "overdone," "mushy" and "cold." Sounds about right, but it does not sound appetizing. I'm happy that the owners are doing well for themselves, but on those occasions when I'm too lazy to hike up to May Wah and get the ingredients necessary to bastardize another culture's food myself, I'll take the filthy pho joint down the road over SUV central any day.

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I guess I am taking a bit of offense as I am hardly a "scenester" to the point that I deliberately only dine here for lunch - thereby avoiding the standing around waiting for a table - and have enjoyed my half-a-dozen meals there.

You're right, I should not have drawn so insensitive a dichotomy in my assessment of Burma Superstar's sidewalk clogging clientele. The hype surrounding the establishment definitely draws more than its fair share of soccer mom sommeliers and other assorted yuppies who are afraid of "spicy" food, too. Doesn't mean you don't have the right to enjoy as many meals as you like there, but when an Asian restaurant in a predominantly Asian neighborhood fails to attract many Asians, you do have to wonder what's going on. Even this supposedly glowing review was full of terms such as "salty," "overdone," "mushy" and "cold." Sounds about right, but it does not sound appetizing. I'm happy that the owners are doing well for themselves, but on those occasions when I'm too lazy to hike up to May Wah and get the ingredients necessary to bastardize another culture's food myself, I'll take the filthy pho joint down the road over SUV central any day.

I frequent the Clemente neighborhood for a variety of reasons; the plethora of Asian restaurants, Haig's deli, Green Apple Books, the variety of bars (Dog's Bollix, Bitter End, Abbey, et al), and some cool antique stores.

But I'm still curious if -- other than Mandalay -- are there are other Burmese restaurants you can recommend?

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  • 3 months later...

I went to Burma Superstar for the first time a few weeks ago and loved it. We ordered the chicken samusas, the vegetarian samusa soup, the tea leaf salad, and the chicken and shrimp casserole with cardamom cinnamon rice. I would order each of those items again, but my two favorites were the tea leaf salad and the casserole. I had read about the salad ahead of time and knew I wanted to order it, but had no idea what to expect. I don't really know quite how to describe its flavors, but I think I'm going to have to order it every time I come back. The chicken in the casserole is a thigh that is kind of buried underneath the rice, and it comes out very moist and tender. I'm not a big fan of sweet flavors, so I was worried about the cardamom and cinnamon, but the casserole wasn't overly sweet - it just had lots of great flavor. And the samusas and samusa soup were great too - everything was great!

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i lived at 7th & lake for 9 years and, go ahead & call me a scenester, but I LOVED burma superstar & miss it dearly! especially since there isn't a STITCH of asian food here in napa county...

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  • 1 month later...

I'll plop in a quote from my lengthy ramble about our recent trip the rest of which can be found here to the excellent city by the Bay to put in a good word for another Burmese resto:

... our eventual destination was Larkin Express for lunch (452 Larkin btwn Golden Gate and Turk M-F 10-4). We opted to go to Larkin Express over the much-vaunted Burma Superstar as it was a) closer and b) less likely to have a lineup. We ordered a pork curry (which came with 2 sides -- we chose rice and "sourleaf", which was a bit like beet greens but tangier), coconut soup and tea salad. The curry was delicious, not too spicy but flavourful, the coconut soup like a mellow version of tom ka gai with noodles and the tea salad was wicked good. It contains young tea leaves, nuts, crunchy yellow peas and a tart but complex dressing. As there are no Burmese restos in Van that I know of, I have nothing to compare to but we both loved it, especially the salad. And it was ridiculously cheap (under $20 for the lot with leftovers). The space is utilitarian at best but the staff were friendly and helpful.

NB: The Larkin Express is not open for dinner.

Edited by grayelf (log)
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