Burma Superstar: casual Burmese in the Richmond

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My friend Amy and I are going through the same angst of trying to make the most of our last days in San Francisco before we depart for the other side of the world. And while at times treating every meal and moment like their last can get stressful and monopolize the time I should theoretically be spending packing, studying, and preparing for my trip, I couldn’t imagine a more fun activity to devote my time to.

We’re checking off our must-tries rather quickly, and after a Sunday at the Tourist Club with Mayflower sandwiches and beers, we decided to move down the list to Burma Superstar, a popular Burmese restaurant in the Richmond. After living in SF for over two decades, I was surprised to have never heard about this place, which just shows what a bubble the Pac Heights / Marina area can be. But Burma Superstar is just one of the many diamonds in the rough on Clement Street.

After reading the many rave-reviews about this place (it was even on Food Network!), I was pumped to try it. And because I’m funemployed and heard that the wait can be horrendous, I arrived more than an hour before my two friends Amy and Sarah, which proved unnecessary on a Monday night. There was an average of 10-15 minute wait times for parties of 2-4, but I’m sure as the week progresses the wait gets longer.

Though we were seated at an awkward table practically inches from the kitchen, we could still appreciate the laid back charm at this place. No frills. But despite not having a hard-liquor license, they have an interesting selection of shochu, beer, and wine cocktails. Not knowing too much about Burmese food, we ordered what came recommended in our research and by our waitress. First, we started with one of my favorite things: the platha, a multi-layered, buttery fried bread that comes with a chicken curry dipping sauce that I could eat on top of rice for days. It’s addictive, and the bread is as crisp as a potato pancake. We then shared the two most popular salads, the tea leaf salad and the rainbow salad, which the waiter mixes a la table. The tea leaf salad comes with tea leaves that almost look like the wilted spinach in sag paneer, crunchy peanuts, and fried garlic that give so much texture and flavor to the crisp romaine lettuce. That said, I preferred the rainbow salad, a noodle salad with four types of noodles, a green papaya slaw, fried tofu, and a tamarind dressing. A platter that arrived to the table looking so bland turned into one of the most exciting Asian salads I’ve had.

platha goodness

platha goodness

waiter explaining salads pre-mixing

waiter explaining salads pre-mixing

Rainbow salad

Rainbow salad (photo from SF chronicle)

tea leaf salad

tea leaf salad

For our main, we shared the vegetable curry delux, a bowl of tomatoes, okra, squash, eggplant, and tofu jam-packed and simmering in an earthy lentil curry. As opposed to some curries I’ve tasted that have a measly portion of vegetables swimming in a ton of sauce, this one was very vegetable focused with the sauce as more of an afterthought, which I loved. The vegetables were different and the tomato really freshened up what otherwise was a pretty hearty dish. Delicious on the coconut rice topped with fried onions!

vegetable curry

vegetable curry

The best part about the meal was that despite eating what seemed like a ton of food, we didn’t feel sick or uncomfortable, which I attribute to the focus on vegetables and fresh ingredients. There is a ton to try on the menu, so next time I may go back with a few meat eaters to sample some of the chicken dishes that looked to die for. Definitely worth a visit if you like interesting, flavorful food in a relaxed setting with super friendly and efficient service.

Grade: A
Location: 309 Clement St between 4th Ave & 5th Ave


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Filed under Asian, Featured U.S. City Posts, San Francisco

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