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My first visit to Burma Superstar - Report (LONG)

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I went to Burma Superstar for the first time last night....I was pleasantly surprised by the meal. I think this place actually lives up to its hype, which is nice to see. Main downside was the wait: We were a party of 2 and we arrived at 7:25 on Friday night. We put our name down and were told 25 minutes. It ended up being well over a 1 hour wait....we were seated at about 8:45. We were pretty hungry and excited to eat, so we ordered a lot.

We started with the Samusa Soup, which I liked a lot (but didn't love). My friend liked it more I think. The serving was pretty big for 2 people, so there was a lot, more than 2 small cups for each of us. It was different than anything I'd had before, so that was a plus.

Next came the tea leaf salad which was the highlight for me. The tea leaves themselves are delicious, and the fermented taste in the salad almost reminded me of gorgonzola. All of the ingredients were very fresh, I liked the different textured ingredients, and the serving was big. I think this dish is worth a 1 hr wait.

We shared two main dishes: Shrimp w/ Burma Superstar's "specialty curry" was excellent...the shrimps themselves were nothing exciting, but the spicy red sauce was great, especially when combined with the coconut rice (we ordered two of these on the side). This, plus the appetizers, probably would have been plenty of food for the two of us.

We also had, based on our waitress's suggestion, the tofu vegetable kebat. I thought this was fine but kind of unexciting...the sauce was similar to the curry, but less intense and flavorful, and the tofu and vegetables were not that exciting. The mint added a bit of an interesting flavor, but I still thought it was kind of boring. We were going to order the tofu tower, which looked good and different. Next time I might try this. Has anyone had it?

I drank some ginger lemonade, which was delicious, and my friend had a Thai iced tea which was good.

The tables in the restaurant are very close together, and after the long wait, most people seem to be pretty excited to finally be eating. We were seated right next to a party of 3, and we ended up trading some tastes of food with them (we ordered all the same appetizers though) and making friends! They had some pea shoots which were sauteed w/ garlic....well prepared, and nice to have some greens on the table. They also had a beef dish that I didn't get to try....maybe if they read this report they'll chime in and say how it was. We shared some of their dessert too...not sure what it was exactly, but it seemed to be a flavored glutinous rice roll (maybe banana flavored?), deep fried and topped with ice cream. Not bad.

What most impressed me about Burma Superstar was their ability to run things really well despite the mob of people. Even though they were crazy busy, our server still took the time to explain different menu items to us, to serve us our soup, point out each ingredient of the tea leaf salad, etc. Also, as we chatted w/ our new friends at the next table, we never felt like we were being rushed out. A place this popular could easily get away with worse or less-friendly service, but the fact that they don't do so is pretty great.

I ordered different dishes when I went to Mandalay in January, so it's not fair exactly to compare, but I enjoyed this meal much more than my meal at Mandalay. Overall, Burma Superstar was a lot of fun (despite the wait) and it was nice to try such great food and make some new friends.

Dave MP

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  1. I was there with Dave. It was excellent I thought. The soup is unlike any other and amazing, but I'm also a very big fan of soups in general. Our new friends were great too, very glad that the place could create such an environment.

    Tea leaf salad was impressive. Mostly because I hate salads yet found myself getting second and third helpings. A welcome retreat from forcing it down because it's healthy.

    I liked the shrimp a lot too. The shrimp itself I felt was cooked nicely, not too chewy or too tough. Tofu, meh. Not bad, but the other food set a pretty high bar.

    1. How about a location; at least the city it's in?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Anonimo

        Burma Superstar - 309 Clement St between 4th and 5th Avenues. Richmond District, San Francisco

        www.burmasuperstar.com

      2. Can you explain why you preferred the experience more than Mandalay? I used t love BS until I got really tired of the mob scene, and since then I've been really enjoying Mandalay, but I'd love to know specifics about what was better at BS for you.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Maya

          It may have been what we ordered, since I didn't try the tea leaf salad at Mandalay. But I really thought the tea leaf salad was way better than anything i ate at Mandalay. In fact, I think the sambusa soup at BS was also better than anything I had at Mandalay, as was the shrimp curry.

          Here's a link to my post about Mandalay....I definitely enjoyed the meal there despite liking the experience at Burma Superstar more.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/365689

          The restaurants have very different feels....Burma Superstar is more fun and busy and more of a scene, and I guess the night I went there I was in the mood for that. Meanwhile, Mandalay is more of a family restaurant. Maybe it depends on what you're in the mood for. I would certainly return to both.

          But talking in terms of just food, Burma Superstar impressed me more. I should go to Mandalay and order the tea leaf salad though, for a fair comparison.

          Dave MP

          1. re: Dave MP

            MANY years ago, after enjoying everything but particularly the two similar salads at Mandalay, we returned to find the salad shrunk from the former platter to a small plate. I can't swear the portion itself was that much smaller, but the esthetic experience was!

            Nothing seemed very good that evening long ago, as if the place had suddenly just given up.

            Will try it again soon and even try BSS, now that I know about the cell phone option(having finally purchased one to use for emergencies), not being a person willing to stand in line for anything.

            1. re: Dave MP

              Mandalay's version didn't have dried shrimp and was heavy on the peanuts. Thus, it wasn't as salty as BSS but suffered from lack of acidity. We had to ask for lemon to balance it out. Doesn't BSS's version include lemon?

              1. re: DezzerSF

                Huh, I've always had dried shrimp and lemon on my Mandalay tea leaf salad.

                1. re: Maya

                  Weird, I had it for lunch last week and they didn't give me any.

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    What I noticed about the tea leaf salad at Mandalay vs Burma Superstar is that the Mandalay version didn't have romaine lettuce in it, so it was much stronger and more pungeant as there was no less flavorful green in there to negate some of that power. I liked both of them, but I did notice that at Mandalay people took much smaller portions each time they reached for the salad, but they did keep reaching.
                    Does the Mandalay salad usually have lettuce, and we just didn't have it on the single night I tried them?

                    1. re: Meredith

                      I'm quite sure there was lettuce although it might not have been romaine. It's weird that the chef leaves out random items on this standard salad.

                      edit - my fiancee confirmed Mandalay's version had no lettuce.

                      1. re: DezzerSF

                        One of my objections to Burma SS's version is the lettuce which waters down the taste. A more traditional version would have tea leaves as the main ingredients and no lettuce. But apparently it confuses too many BSS customers to have something called "salad" with no lettuce . . . sigh.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Exactly: that's the nice thing I like about the tea leaf salad at that Burmese place on Larkin (I forget the name... something sort of generic?), too. Tomatoes, but no additional greens that distract from the tea leaves.

                          1. re: shortexact

                            That would be Larking Express Deli, here's my post on the ono kauk swe there,
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39512...

                            Please do post about the tea leaf salad when you have a chance! I haven't had a chance to return for it yet.

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            Didn't know that, Melanie. Where is your favorite version?

                            1. re: DezzerSF

                              My favorite was at a place on Bush that has closed. I'll have to make the rounds again to choose another one.

            2. I've never heard of Burma Superstar but sounds interesting after your post. Has it been around for awhile? I've been to Mandalay and enjoy their food. I also wonder how you think Burma S compares to Mandalay. I find Mandalay isn't a mob scene, at least the times I've been there.

              13 Replies
              1. re: singleguychef

                Unfortunately, lots of people *have* heard of Burma Superstar, so it's super crowded. Much more of a mob scene than Mandalay. It's been around for a while....since 1992.

                1. re: singleguychef

                  Lots of posts in the archive. The name's actually Burma Super Star.

                  To me Mandalay's quite similar. I'm not sure why it's so quiet while BSS is so packed.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    The appearance of BSS on the Food Network sure hasn't helped.

                    1. re: shortexact

                      The place had hour-long waits for years before that.

                      You can leave your cell phone number and go browse the bookstore or hang out in one of the nearby cafes or whatever.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        You're right they did have long waits before. Which is why I said "...hasn't helped" rather than "...exclusively causes the waits." But the publicity brings out-of-towners here that probably would have never heard about it otherwise. I personally know several out-of-state people who have visited the restaurant because of the this Food Network show alone, and I doubt I'm alone in this.

                        Yeah, the cell phone part is great. Blue Danube across the street always has a lot of people waiting for BSS in it.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I went to BSS for lunch on Good Friday -- a note on the whole phone thing; on the yellow tablet pad where one wrote their name, there was a BIG note that said "No Phone Numbers!!!" I have no idea if that was just a one-day, one-time thing but something to be aware of.

                          In any event, two of us ordered a lot of food as we knew we had to bring left-overs to share with our loved-ones. We started with the Mu-Shu Vegetable Wraps which were fabulous as well as the Tea Leaf Salad which I didn't like as much as the Gin-Dok salad which I had had on Tuesday. My friend ordered the spicy noodles with pork and I ordered the pork belly with green beans and a side of coconut rice. The noodle dish was amazing in that the noodles were as good and ethereal as those as I adore at Vivande. There was just the right amount of spice in the sauce. The revelation was the pork belly; a shallow bowl of carefully laid-out slices of pork atop a redolent amount of mushrooms laden with a star anise-flavored sauce. The green beans were more of a garnish, surrounding the dish but obviously fresh and very slightly steamed. The coconut rice was the perfect accompaniment to this. The two of us shared a half-pitcher of Sangria and the bill came to around $50 - a bargain, in my book.

                          The partners enjoyed the left-overs and what we ordered would have been more than enough food for four had we all been there at the same time.

                          I am looking forward to eating through their entire menu.

                          1. re: Carrie 218

                            Pork belly? Was that a special? Not on the online menu.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I've noticed a handful of dishes that are not on the online menu (the Gin Dok which I prefer, for example).

                              And yes, pork belly.

                            2. re: Carrie 218

                              to clarify the phone thing.....straight from the horse's mouth (burma staff).

                              "They only take wait list names for dinner and do not call people during lunch service. Names only go on the wait list over the phone when there already is a wait."

                              1. re: aser

                                You're saying you can add your name to the wait list over the phone?

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Yes, that's true. When I was there, the woman was also doing some kind of circling thing with names....so if you were literally standing there , you got your name circled. People who had called and hadn't arrived yet were not circled.

                                  The whole system seemed confusing. My friend and I were there the whole time and still had a very long wait.

                                  Dave MP

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Wait, I forgot. There's one big reason to go to BSS rather than any other Burmese place: samusa soup.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Their awning says Burma Superstar.

                        3. Per Tablehopper the owner of Burma Star is opening B Star Bar in the Bistro Clement space.

                          "planning to offer small plates of Asian fusion with a few dishes from the Burma SuperStar menu, like noodles, salads, and rice plates to accompany an array of beer, wine, and soju and sake cocktails"

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Lori SF

                            I'll be visiting SF next month, and don't know the area that well. Can you let me know what area of the city Burma Super Star is located?

                            1. re: Lotus7

                              it's in the richmond. accessible by the excellent 38 -geary bus, as well as the slow and at times scenic 1-california, and the 44-o'shaugnessy (sp), among others.

                              -----
                              Burma Superstar Restaurant
                              309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                              1. re: artemis

                                link

                                -----
                                Burma Superstar Restaurant
                                309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                1. re: artemis

                                  There's also the #2 Clement, which (as the name implies) will take you to the front door. The #! and the #38 run on parallel streets, each a block away. Not a daunting walk, but a bit more confusing to the visitor.

                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                    FYI -The #2 on runs during the day. It stops around 7 PM.

                                    If you want to eat at Burma Super Star without the wait - go there for lunch or be there right at the dinner opening.

                                    I saw last night that now both Burma Super Star and it's B Star Bar down the street have lines outside at night.

                                    1. re: Kato

                                      Well, that's a PITA. Actually I usually take the #1 because of where I'm coming from. The #2 used to have better service.