Burma Superstar San Francisco Reviews
Superstar food in humble surroundings Apr 14, 2008
With a trendy sounding name and reported two hour wait times, Burma Superstar is a restaurant I have avoided for quite some time. However when my friend Kosala called me telling me he had a table there, I couldn't pass it up. I had never eaten Burmese cuisine before, and was excited to try it out. The way I saw it, Burma borders Thailand, China, and Bangladesh. How could the food be bad? Well, it was good, really good.
The restaurant is in the Inner Richmond neighborhood north of Golden Gate Park. It's a predominantly Chinese neighborhood dotted with authentic Chinese restaurants and grocery stores. It's actually my favorite neighborhood in the city for Chinese food, but that's for another blog. When we showed up, sure enough, there was a huge line waiting outside in the cold. Kosala had put our name on the list an hour before so we only waited a few minutes. The place is quite small, with tables and chairs packed in tightly. They made a half-ass effort at the decor as well, sparsely scattering Burmese (I assume) trinkets and pictures on the walls. I took this as a good sign because that had to mean the food was good. People wouldn't be waiting two hours for this other shite.
Ready for the food? Here we go. We started out with samosas, deep fried with curried potatoes and a red chile sauce. They were crispy, held together well, and nicely complimented by a sweet chile sauce. After that the waiter prepared a tea leaf salad at our table. This is their signature dish and was actually featured on The Food Network. The ingredients included fermented tea leaves, sesame seeds, peanuts, fried garlic, white peas, and dried shrimp tossed with tomato and lettuce. It was completely unlike anything else I've had before. The different textures and flavors really made the food pop. In particular, the dried shrimp and fermented tea leaves gave the salad a bitter (in a good way) flavor that contrasted sharply with the crunchiness of the peanuts and seeds. It almost like the beer of foods, if that makes any sense. Probably not, but only four people will read this so who cares.
Next on the list was a dish called See Jyet Kauswer, or garlic noodles with duck. This was as close as we had to a disappointment but it was still good. The noodles were stir fried with simple garlic and scallions but served at room temperature (which I'm not fond of). Ordering duck instead of chicken was a mistake because it was stir fried anyway and removed any actual duck flavor from the meat. Despite that, this dish was still tasty and made a nice accompaniment if not a main course.
Last was the "Classic Burmese Chicken Casserole with Cardamom Cinnamon Rice". Kosala is Sri Lankan and he told me this dish was really a classic biryani that you'd find in India, Sri Lanka, or Pakistan. I'd had similar dishes in Singapore as well, so my guess is Burma draws some of its influence from central Asia. It contained chicken, rice, spices, raisins, nuts, and shrimp. The chicken came on the bone (very important) so it was tender, juicy, and bursting with sweet and spicy flavors. The rice soaked up all that tastiness and provided both texture and color. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and it was arguably even better the second time.
The service was super-quick, probably a good thing considering the mob waiting outside for a table. We had no room for dessert but they do offer a variety of items that reflect the east and central Asian influences appearing throughout the menu. Altogether a famously excellent meal.
But Tom, what about the long wait? I'm glad you asked. Here is how to solve that problem. They don't take reservations, but you can call in advance and get put on the list. Just call them, and they'll tell you approximately when to show up. It's not a perfect system but it's better than waiting outside in the fog for 2 hours. But here's a better idea, order the food to go. If you live in SF, pick up the order and eat it at home. If you're a tourist, eat it in the hotel, in the park, on the hood of your rental car who cares. You're not going there for the decor or atmosphere anyway, plus they don't have a full bar. Order it to go and you're eating the best carryout Asian food you've ever had.
I asked a Burmese friend of mine how authentic it was (yes I have a Burmese friend and you don't). She said it was "directionally correct", slightly dumbed down for Western tastes, but top notch in terms of quality. I concur. So eat like a Superstar and check this place out.
Part of the The blog to be named later travel blog
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Jan 02, 2006
Burmese in SF's Richmond District
This place is very popular, and quite small, so expect a long wait
(during busy hours, 30-45 minutes if you have more than 2 people in
your party). The service is good (our waitress was very
friendly), and pretty fast.
Our party of 3 had the superstar noodles (pretty good), the poodi
(potato curry with naan, which was ok), and the chicken casserole
(good, but oily). Everything was pretty heavy/oily, but the
flavors were definitely good. Portions are small, but filling.
Overall, this place was pretty good and the style of cuisine is always a good change of pace... but it's not spectacular.