Monday, May 23, 2011

Burma Superstar

I LOVE eating in San Francisco, and it's always a tough call determining which restaurants will make the cut on a short trip. This time I decided to try the extremely popular Burma Superstar. Burma Superstar doesn't take reservations, but they will call your cellphone when your table becomes available so it is possible (and recommended) to check in and then go have a beer elsewhere while you wait.

Once in to the busy, cozy restaurant, my dining companion and I drank white wine sangria with Asian pear, lychee and oranges.

We started with a traditional Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, which came to the table with compartmentalized ingredients: Romain lettuce, toasted peanuts, fried garlic, split yellow peas, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted sesame seeds, chopped tomato, fresh jalapeno, lemon, and a wet pile of fermented finely chopped tea leaves. If you don't order it vegetarian style, it also includes dried shrimp.

The waiter then mixed the salad at the table. It was spectacular. I don't think I've ever had a better salad than this... the mix of textures and savory and bright flavors was absolutely incredible. The fermented tea leaves reminded me a little bit of the salty briny flavor of capers, and added a really interesting dimension to the overall flavor. I would come to Burma Superstar for this salad alone!

In addition to a designated vegetarian portion of the menu, Burma Superstar indicates on their menu that many of their meat dishes can also be made vegetarian (which, I believe means vegan in this restaurant's vernacular). Awesome.

My meat eating dining companion kindly ordered vegetarian so that we could both try multiple dishes. We ordered the Shan Noodles, vegetarian style, described as rice noodles in a spicy tomato sauce with pickled radish, cilantro, peanuts and tofu. Similar in presentation to the salad, the Shan Noodles came to the table with compartmentalized garnishes that the waiter stirred in as we watched.
Shan Noodles Pre-stir

Shan Noodles Post-Stir

We also ordered a Tofu Vegetable Kebat, which consisted of tofu with onions, tomatoes, squash, carrots, green chilis and mint leaves. This was eaten over rice.

I'd never had Burmese food before this, and it really was different from any other culinary ethnicity I've ever eaten. All of the dishes tasted different from what I'd expected based upon how they looked. To best describe it, I'd say the dishes have the earthiness of Indian food, the fresh herb flavors of Vietnamese food, the sourness of Korean food, and the dry/fresh pepper heat and roasted flavors of Thai food.

With reasonable prices and friendly service, I'm not surprised this place is as ragingly popular as it is!

Burma Superstar on Urbanspoon

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