Pagan Restaurant - New Burmese/Thai in Outer Richmond - Awesome - Report
I just got home from an excellent Burmese meal at Pagan Restaurant in the Outer Richmond. I hadn't heard of this place until yesterday - it's been open two weeks. The restaurant is nicely decorated - warm, cozy and somewhat classy, though tables are close together. The restaurant has two separate menus - Burmese and Thai. I liked the fact that the menus are completely separate, and sometimes even include Burmese and Thai versions of the same dish. For instance, we ordered the Burmese green papaya salad, while the table next to us ordered the Thai version which looked very different.
I was there with 3 others, so we were able to try several of my favorite Burmese dishes to compare to other Burmese in town. Pagan did very well!
Tea Leaf Salad - Ingredients were nicely arranged on the serving plate and our server mixed the salad for us. Portion was a bit smaller than Larkin Express Deli, and the tea leaves were more finely chopped, but overall it was a great salad. This was the spiciest version I had tasted (plenty of chile was mixed in).
Mohinga - Their version was great, and very similar to the mohinga at Larkin Express. Thin noodles, rich broth w/ small chunks of fish, garnished with crispy fried lentils and cilantro. The taste was very fresh.
Green papaya salad - Also arranged on the serving plate and mixed at the table by our server. Shredded green papaya, onion, fried garlic, dried shrimp, peanut and a light dressing - this was also very fresh tasting, and the fried garlic and dried shrimp made it different from Thai papaya salad that I am more used to.
Pumpkin and shrimp stew - Chunks of pumpkin and perfectly cooked shrimp served in a yellow curry sauce - closer to Indian curries or Thai yellow curry. Delicious.
Burmese Style Fish Cake Curry - Very good, and different than the version at Larkin Express Deli (which is one of my favorites). The fishcakes were some of the best I've ever had - they were light and fluffy for fishcakes - and contained lots of lemongrass. The red curry sauce wasn't too spicy, with the dominating chiles balanced by acidic tamarind.
For dessert, we shared an order of Banana Shwe Kyi - a dense banana cake that we all liked. It had a great banana flavor and was not overly sweet.
Service was very good and professional. The menus were very big - over 50 items on the Burmese menu alone, and about the same on the Thai menu. The owners are Burmese but lived in Thailand for many years.
This place is going to give Burma Superstar a run for their money - I will definitely be back (despite the long trek out to 33rd Av) and I highly recommend trying this place soon!
Thanks for the rec! I'll add my report to this thread.
Three weeks ago a co-hound and I had a very pleasant Sunday brunch here. Neither of us had given much thought to where we wanted to eat. To help us come up with something, I said, “let’s go somewhere away from our usual haunts”. That pointed us toward the outer Richmond and the faaaaar end of Clement to Pagan.
At 1:30pm, we were surprised to find it busy and more than half-full. A first time for both of us, we zeroed in on the 50+ items on the Burmese side of the menu, ignoring the Thai dishes. http://pagansf.com/burmese_menu.html Certainly I was happy to have so many choices. However, the mental concentration required to figure out the small differences in description in the noodle section then choose among the various combinations of chicken and noodle types was more effort than I could muster on a lazy Sunday. I confessed that I was confounded, and J said that she was feeling the same thing. Our sweet waitress tried to be helpful, but she mostly steered us toward the standards.
We finally got our order in and tried the following:
12. Ginger Salad (Gin Thut) “Pickle ginger, toasted mixed nuts, fried garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, grounded shrimp and dressing” – Our first dish, and nicely arranged on the plate, which looked great against the black table top. The waiter pointed out the components then asked first before mixing them and messing up the presentation, a nicety that some of the other Burmese restaurants forget. While the ginger was said to be “pickled”, the flossy strands seemed more like dried or fried, reminding us of toasted coconut. This was a completely different taste in ginger salads, and one that I liked very much.
26. Chin Mong Jaw with Shrimp “Burmese style sour vegetables sauteed with green chili, prawn, and bamboo shoots” – Not much too look at, but delicious nonetheless. Just by sight, the prawns seemed like they’d be overcooked and cottony, but no, even to this Cantonese-bred palate, they were succulent with a juicy bite and absorbed the spicy and tart flavors beautifully. Made with a sorrel-like, leafy green, this dish was great scooped up on the crunchy palata and eaten out of hand, its sour and minerally flavors cutting through the oily richness of the flatbread.
Palata side order – Absolutely beautiful with a rough textured, well-browned and crackly surface, this many-layered roti palata was another highlight. Maybe a little too oily, and while I thought about asking for a paper napkin to blot it a little more, I didn’t want to miss eating it while hot and at the peak of flavor.
43. Shwe Taung Kauswer (Coconut Chicken Curry) “Flour noodle with spiced coconut chicken curry sauce, split yellow pea powder, fried onion, cilantro and onion” – The grand outcome of our noodle menu analysis was this composed salad, again prettily presented. In addition to the litany of ingredients listed on the menu, this was also topped with crunchy, fried wonton strips. The coconut component was interesting, a small dab of coconut cream peeking out in the upper corner of the plate, rather than blended into the curry chicken. The raw onions had been soaked to remove some of the pungent bite while keeping all the crispness. We mixed this one ourselves. The only flaw is that the curried chicken pieces ladled on top were a bit dry and barely warm in temperature. I pointed out to our young waiter that this dish and the chin mong jaw were served tepid. He apologized but added that the noodles for this dish should be a cool serving temperature.
Service was good with the exception of the two dishes that cooled down too much before being served. It almost seemed like our server was choking back tears with our one teensy complaint and I imagine with food this good here, he hasn’t had to listen to many shortcomings before.
With an airy and light-filled contemporary interior, stylish plating, and clean and refreshing Burmese cuisine, Pagan has what it takes to be a serious contender to Burma Superstar. I like the cooking here as much as Mandalay spin-off, Mingalaba in Burlingame. I’ve made no bones about BSS not being the area’s best Burmese kitchen, and certainly not worth waiting in line to eat there. Having tasted Pagan’s cooking and hospitality, I feel that even more strongly now.
re: Melanie Wong
I've only had one meal at each of the three, so don't have much experience to back up my opinion. I felt that Yellow Pa Taut had some good dishes, prepared in a home cooking style. Larkin Express Deli is more of what I'd call home style as well, but my sense is that LED has tastier food across the board. I can say that the coconut chicken noodle soup I had at LED was much better than Yellow Pa Taut's, where it was one of the weakest dishes. Pagan steps things up another notch in cooking style, atmosphere and presentation. Yet the prices are still quite reasonable compared to Yellow Pa Taut, which has plain formica folding tables. I think that if you tried Pagan next, you would have a very different spot and style of Burmese cooking to contrast with your Larkin Express Deli meal. Not so much if you tried YPT.
Thanks so much for the recommendation of Pagan. Five of us went relatively late last night. They were packed (which they attributed to a positive newspaper review). Our waiter was wonderful. Although there were occasional timing issues, and he forgot to tell us to get dessert orders in before the dessert chef left. He was most apologetic about this, but he was also extremely patient with our questions, enthusiastic about our enthusiasm, and best of all, warm and gracious.
As is often the case at Burmese restaurants, the highlights for me were the salads and soups. I think my single favorite dish was the fish noodle soup, moohinga, which was exceptionally light and refreshing. I think this might be the perfect place to seduce a recalcitrant fish soup eater, or for the person who feels that cilantro is always applied with a ladle. I loved the fried beans in the soup -- it gave it a wonderful crunch.
We tried the tea leaf, green papaya, and ginger salads. They tossed the ginger and tea leaf salads at the table, but unlike Dave, I think the ginger salad was outstanding. The taste of the tea leaves was terrific, but I don't like the texture as much as at some other places -- it was pure mush.
My favorite entree was the pumpkin pork stew. Lately, any time an Asian restaurant offers a kubacha/protein combination, I try to order it. The squash wasn't quite as tender as it should be, but the curry sauce was outstanding, and went well with the rice.
I never tried a Burmese egg curry before, so we took the plunge. It looks like they soft-boiled eggs and then fried them, yielding a slightly crunchy exterior. I felt this sauce was a little unbalanced -- the tomato dominated to an unpleasant degree, almost like a prepared, canned tomato sauce.
Thanks for the recommendation of the nan pia dok (the chicken curry noodles), which we all liked.
All in all, despite the disappointment of no dessert, we had a fabulous time. I think this is at least as good as any Burmese restaurant I've tried in New York (including ones that have closed).
re: Dave Feldman
re: Dave MP
Ahh, I didn't realize the review was in the Chronicle. Our waiter, Juju (sp?) said that he knew the influx was from the review because there was a sudden influx of orders for shwe yin aye (to the point that Pagan ran out last night). I forgot to mention we also ordered the fried onions, which was of copious size and served with a delicious, slightly spicy dipping sauce. Not sure I would order it again, just because of the relative heaviness.
I ate at Pagan again on Monday - service was slow because there was only one waiter for a rather full restaurant - I guess the other waiter had called in sick. Overall, food wasn't as good as on my first visit, but there is still lots of great potential.
Samusa Soup - Quite spicy, perhaps a bit too salty, but mostly very good - nice flavors, contrasting textures of broth, soft potatoes and crispy falafels and fried lentils.
Ginger Salad - Not as good as the ginger salad at L.E.D. - this had toasted ginger, which I didn't like very much - it almost tasted too sweet. Fair amount of lettuce, as opposed to the version at L.E.D. which has little (or no?) lettuce....I liked the tea leaf salad and papaya salad from my first visit more than this salad.
Beef curry - This was good, but it tasted just like my Jewish grandma's brisket. Really pretty much exactly like it - I couldn't really pick out any differences. So it was very good, but different than what I was expecting (which was something more like lemongrass curry or panang curry or spices I associate with SE Asian curry. It definitely contained bay leaves.
Fish cake curry - Not as good as the last visit either, the fish cakes didn't have the strong lemongrass flavor. But the sauce was still very good.
Noodles w/ coconut and chicken (#43 I think on the menu?) - This was good. The ingredients were served separated on the plate for us to mix ourselves - dried shrimp, coconut cream, hot egg noodles, raw onion, shredded chicken, crispy fried garlic and maybe one or two other things. I liked it, and I'm definitely interested in trying other noodle dishes here.
We shared Banana Shwe Kyi for dessert, this was just as good as last time.
Even though it was slow, service was very friendly and they were apologetic about the wait. The 10% discount for opening month still applied - not sure how much longer this lasts for. Once again, we ordered only from the Burmese menu - yet to try any of the Thai items.
It is not cash only - they accept Visa and Mastercard.
Not sure if it's still cash only. We did pay in cash, though we didn't even ask about credit cards. Perhaps they just don't accept credit cards yet, cause it seems like the type of place that would eventually accept them.
I also failed to notice if they had alcohol or not. I see Singha Beer on the menu, but I'm not positive they had it.
During their first month, all meals are 10% off - so prices were very reasonable w/ this discount included.
They are open 6 days a week 11 am - 3:30 PM and then 5 pm to 10 pm. Closed on Tuesday
Has anyone else been yet?