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May 15, 2007 03:31 PM

Larkin Express Deli Lunch - Report

I think I have a new favorite restaurant in San Francisco. I had lunch at Yamo yesterday, which was fine, but lunch today was completely different and much better.

Larkin Express Deli is much bigger and nicer than I had imagined it to be, which was a nice surprise. The owner was extremely nice and helpful....I told him I had read about the place on Chowhound, and he was excited to hear that and told me all about the different Burmese options. I was deciding between the fish noodle soup and the coconut noodle soup, and eventually chose the fish.

After I had ordered, the owner came by and asked if I also wanted a small bowl of the coconut chicken noodle soup. I said yes!

I waited about 4 minutes before he came out carrying my tray of soups. The fish soup was really amazing. I'm not too familiar with Burmese food, so I aplogize if I don't describe it very well. The brown broth contained ground fish, but the flavor was not overpoweringly fishy. The broth was slightly spicy and really tasty. The soup was topped with crunchy fried lentils, fried garlic and cilantro.

The coconut soup was very different and creamy. It wasn't very spicy, but had a nice flavor that made the coocnut not too overpowering. It had thick egg noodles, pieces of dark meat chicken, and a nice drizzle of spicy oil. I didn't get any lentils on top of mine (it was just a taste) but I saw that this normally does come with all the toppings that I had on my big soup (the next table had this soup)

It's really hard to say which soup I liked better; they were both good and I really liked them. I am eager to return to try some of the steam table items, especially the various curries. Many people were eating lunches of rice w/ several small plates of different items.

Prices are extremely reasonable. I also saw a great looking sandwich (they have tons of things at this place besides Burmese food). I will probably go back next week (if not sooner). If you are ever anywhere nearby, you should check this place out. It's finding places like this that make this website so valuable.

Thanks everyone for this recommendation!

Dave MP

Here's a link to an earlier post about Larkin Express Deli.

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  1. Ooooooooo! I am sooooo excited!!! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the report. I'd like to know how their Tea Leaf salad compares to Burma Super Star's version.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DezzerSF

        It's been awhile since I had the Burma Super Star version but I recall that BSS's version was a little lighter on the dressing so I liked that version better. I'll miss the rest of the Burmese food here and the wonderful service from the lady here (she always came by to ask how the food was) since I'm starting work in downtown Oakland next week.

        1. re: DezzerSF

          Me too! I'll order it next time!

          Dave MP

          1. re: Dave MP

            well, i'm eating it right now. how funny. i went there for lunch today, too. i had the coconut chicken soup. i won't add much to your description, and melanie wong probably described it best. the dark meat was much tastier than the wok-fried chicken breast i had in yamo's version last night. i actually preferred the noodles at yamo, which were firmer, but that's only a minor complaint, especially since the soup was so much more flavorful. the woman working brought over a small container of chili flakes, so i was able to adjust to my taste. those crunchy pea fritters are my new favorite thing. i want a jar to carry around with me.

            now, the tea leaf salad. i got this to go, and i'm eating it now. i've only had this dish once, at BSS, and that was years ago, so i can't compare. but fresh impressions on this one? it's good. let's has crunchy peas, sesame seeds, dried coconut flakes, peanuts, tomato, lime, shredded cabbage, and of course, the fermented tea leaves. quite pungent on their own, with thin slices of chili mixed it. the dressing seems quite light, and i think the dish mixes together well. maybe someone who is more experienced with this could chime in. are these basic ingredients? are there even more elaborate versions?

            the man working there was extremely friendly. it must be rather popular, because about six burmese people rushed in and ordered a lot of to go food from the steam table. i asked if many americans were interested in the food, and he said about half the people ordering burmese were american. he also mentioned something about "people reading and talking to each other on the internet," and i smiled and said that's why i was there.

            i was interested in the fish soup, too, and will probably get it next time. i'm afraid i might be igoring my usual vietnamese haunts for a while.

        2. Super, I'm happy to hear that the mohinga (fish chowder) is good. Taste of the sea without being too fishy. I almost went there to have it for breakfast today, now I'll make a point to. Yes, I feel the fried yellow peas are a must and they're done so well here.

          Here's the original thread with the head's up.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Is the mohinga normally a breakfast food? I suspected that it was, since I was there at 12:30, and according to another woman sitting next to me, I got the last bowl. Lucky me :)

            Dave MP

            1. re: Dave MP

              I've had it at all times of the day, but someone once told me that it's best at breakfast.

                1. re: Dave MP

                  Amazing that I picked a standard spelling on the fly. (g)

                  I saw a package of mohinga soup powder today, now I'm sorry I didn't buy it.

          2. stopped by a few weeks ago and was intrigued by the 'sour leaf' side dish. The owner, Dennis, said that he gets the sour leaf from a farmers' market from someone who grows it in the San Joaquin Valley and very few other restaurants use it. It has a unique, blunt lemon or yogurt-like taste that is unlike anything that I can remember. According to Dennis, it takes a lot of work to separate the small amount of leaf from the vegetable for use in the dish. It also has sliced bamboo stalks in it that add texture and some contrast.

            When I looked up 'sour leaf' on google references to sorrel came up and may be used in Vietnamese cooking. Also liked the fish chowder, spicy fish cake and the rice with lentils.

            5 Replies
            1. re: zippo

              Oh good, someone's tried the sour leaf. I've had it once before somewhere else and I think it's sorrel too.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                The woman at the table next to me had it today looked nice and I'd like to try it next time. She said it was good.

                1. re: Dave MP

                  At one time I could say that I'd eaten at every Burmese place in the Bay Area. With new openings, they've kinda gotten away from me. But looks like you're catching up to me.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I work in the neighborhood. The new owners and the Burmese food are a big improvement over the old deli. The deli food (e.g., fresh roasted turkey) is good too. I got the coconut chicken soup a couple of weeks ago and loved it. I asked the guy behind the counter what I should order next time and he recommended garlic egg noodles w/ roasted pork. I had that the other day and it was simple and delicious. Cooked to order egg noodles (they warned me that it takes a few minutes because they can't cook the egg noodles in advance -- a good sign) topped with well-roasted, slightly crispy crumbles of roast pork, along with that fried garlic and some green onions. Doesn't sound like much but it was delicious. There was a side dish of reddish hot sauce that complemented the pork and noodles perfectly. I think I want to try that tea leaf salad next.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

         did a short piece on Larkin Express and "... the mystery sour greens with shrimp were delish. Why mystery? Because I can’t for the life of me remember what the greens were..."

                  link to Tablehopper on Larkin Express, tea leaf salad, moh hinga, sour leaf, shrimp paste, etc.:

              2. I went for lunch today and had the mohinga and tea leaf salad. Mohinga was lovely--it was so hot it burned my mouth, but I couldn't slow down to let it cool. The thick, hearty broth and crunchy fritters made me wish for delivery service to my apartment on cold, foggy mornings.

                When I told the owner that I had enjoyed Burmese food before, he ran back to the kitchen and returned with extra pepper flakes, cilantro and lime. The lime and pepper flakes were much appreciated; my soup already had a good amount of cilantro in it.

                The tea leaf salad was great--more toasted/roasted nuts and fried garlic than the Burma Superstar version I also like and much cheaper. The two dishes came to $13 with a drink and supplied enough leftovers for another meal.