Chowdown Report, B Star Bar
Six Hounds and Hound family members met for lunch today at B Star Bar, little sister restaurant to the very popular Burmese Superstar, and located a block or so further east on Clement. The menu is Burmese fusion; perhaps more fusion than Burmese. We were seated on the lovely covered and enclosed patio, which was a very pleasant spot.
Dishes we tried were:
Platha with curry sauce
Tea Leaf Salad
Kau Soi (coconut chicken noodles)
Prather Ranch Lamb currry with coconut rice
We wanted to order croquettes also, from the appetizer menu, but they weren't available.
Total cost for lunch including non-alcoholic drinks, was $85, with tax and tip. My impression is that prices are a bit higher than at Burmese Superstar.
It wouldn't be a Chow Lunch without exploring the neighborhood eats and going somewhere else for dessert, so sure enough, afterwards, some of us walked up and down Clement Street a bit checking out some of the new spots, and ended up at Schubert's Bakery for slices of excellent chocolate rum cake and princess cake.
Bottom line for me: good food, better company, and while I did enjoy many of the dishes at B Star, the cake was the highlight for me, even though I am not a cake person....
But let's hear from some others, and then I will add more of my thoughts as well.
521 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
B Star Bar
127 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Thanks all for a fun chowdown.
We had to try it, but to save others the bother, the tea leaf salad here is a joke. The tea leaves were diffused in the dressing and this dish should really be called romaine salad. As much as I dislike BSS's version, this goes even further toward tea leaf "lite".
It's been a long time since I've had the samusa soup at BSS, but I liked this better. The seasonings were more rounded and there was an attractive heft to the dish.
The gravy for the coconut chicken noodles was way too thick and dominated by coconut. With slabs of dry, white chicken breast, this hardly had any chicken flavor at all. And it had too much shaved red onion.
I liked the meatball congee well enough, which featured two big meatballs. The salted cabbage hearts were cut too coarsely and would have been better if rinsed more thoroughly and minced. Also would have liked this dish more if it didn't have so much veggie garnish that repeated from the lamb curry.
Guess this all means that my favorite dish was the Prather Ranch lamb curry. The texture was wonderful, and while the seasonings were fairly assertive, the taste of the meat still came through. As chaddict said, the two small bowls this was served in looked pretty puny, but actually held quite a bit.
I asked my mom what she though of the food here and she said most everything sas "alright". The one exception was the tea leaf salad, which she referred to as "bird seed", and didn't like it at all. (g)
re: Melanie Wong
As a late comer to Burmese cuisine I've been enjoying this and the Mingalaba thread greatly. I've only had tea leaf salad from BSS, is Mandalay's better or is it identical to its sister restaurant? Further, where would one go to find a good rendition of this dish? Also, any other places in the south Bay worth trying? TIA
>Mandalay's tea salad is much better than B Star Bar<
I found this older thread and thought I'd add to it instead of starting a new one. Last night I stopped at Mandalay on California St. in SF and had their tea leaf salad. Know that this was the first time I've had tea leaf salad anywhere. I loved it. The waiter both explained the ingredients and mixed them at the table, including adding fresh lemon juice. There was no lettuce at all. The flavors were concentrated and it was great. It's not at all like what westerners think of as salad. I'd describe it as more of a condiment or dip. In fact I can well imagine scooping it with shrimp chips. I'm sure I wouldn't like it nearly as much if it was diluted with lettuce.
4344 California St
San Francisco, CA 94118
Loved the company and the surprise visit of Yimster! as to the food I was somewhat underwhelmed...it was too 'fusionary'....so for me had a lack of a strong focus...nothing was bad...but the dishes which stood out were the lamb curry, the samusa soup, and the congee was overflowing with 'stuff'!
As to a comparison..although I have eaten at Burma Superstar...it was too long ago for a meaningful comparison...if I want Burmese when I am in that area I head a block over to Calif, St. to Mandalay
I enjoyed the lamb curry the most of any dish I think...again, interesting to compare with Karen's pics from her Chow Lunch today: again, looked like a very different dish! B Star's version was made with tender, high quality lamb, not overcooked, which was very nice, but what made the dish a standout for me was that it included vegetables including some very nice cucumbers which added a freshness to the dish. That could have been the fusion influence but in that instance it worked, at least for me. The rice was mild (not a lot of coconut flavor that I could ascertain) and was a nice foil for the thin but tasty curry sauce.
I did enjoy the meatball in the congee (naturally, I almost always enjoy meatballs), which we decided was probably made with both pork and beef. Not sure congee is really the best way to show off meatballs though...(everything else was expectedly bland, and I thought the meatball sort of got lost)
With the exception of the lamb, I have to agree that the fusion aspect was somewhat distracting....I didn't expect that much fusion in a sister restaurant to BSS, which I understand to be not at all fusionary (?).
so confession time: I've not actually eaten at Burma Superstar: have wanted to a few times, but whenever I am in the neighborhood and hungry (which isn't as often as I'd like, given that my favorite SF bookstore, Green Apple, is jsut down the street and the street is filled with great places to eat...but it is on the other side of town from my house, which I know is no excuse)...but anyway, BSS always seems to have a huge line in front and I end up elsewhere. Indeed, one of the topics of conversation at our lunch was whether BSS was worthy of that line when compared to other Burmese options in SF...
but while I didn't hear any specific comparisons of the tea salad and samusa soup, I am hoping my fellow and sister hounds, most of whom had eaten at BSS, will chime in. I don't think there was the Rainbow Salad, but am not sure. Unfortunately, unlike BSS, B Star Bar apparently does not have a full website.
I enjoyed the Tea Leaf Salad, btw, although it wasn't my favorite dish. I found it interesting that it had rather large chopped slices of jalapeno, but of the six or so slices I ate, only one had any bite to it, and even that wasn't over the top spicy...
More thoughts in a bit...
I would say the samusa soup was the same as BSS and the salad not as good. It was on the bland side. I would rather go to Yamo where they use slivered cabbage instead of romaine pieces, and more tea, fried beans and garlic slivers, and dried shrimp. Just way more flavorful...
The space, as Susan mentioned, was very pleasant and relaxed. The service was warm and helpful. I was a bit disappointed that the croquettes (which were deemed a B Star favorite on the menu) were still not ready by 2:00 PM.
As for the rest, I liked the congee just fine. It was a bit bland but definitely comfort food. I would never go out of my way for this (or any other dish here, for that matter). The crispy platha wasn't crispy at all. The samusa soup was it's usual good self. The lamb curry was good. The bowls are deceptive: it seems like 2 small bowls arrive, one for the curry and the other for the (coconut?) rice. However, that curry bowl holds quite a bit more than you would think. The chicken noodle dish was ok; again, it was bland and on the smallish side for an entree.
The best thing I had (and most lively in flavor) was my salty plum spritzer...
While the dishes we had weren't all that fusion-y, other dishes on the menu included some sort of mango something-or-other taco, Thai curry pot pie, and beer braised pork belly and beans. You get the picture. For $14, I left hungry.
Best part of the meal? The hounds, of course! Let's hit up Mandalay next...
Having followed this up with Monday's lunch at Mingalaba in Burlingame, Mandalay's sister restaurant, the timid cooking style of B Star B and BSS stand out even more to me. While the food isn't muddy, it doesn't have the high tones, fermented flavors, and depth of Mingalaba's. Fear of fish sauce takes its toll.
Oh, and I learned that Mingalaba hired its own chef. Mandalay still has the same chef, so yes, let's go.