Burma Superstar is, to many, a veritable institution in San Francisco. It's like a Yelp phenomenon from before Yelp ever existed, commanding 2 hour lines along Clement Street at the oddest of hours on the oddest of nights dating back to the last 49ers Superbowl. Given Burma Superstar's popularity, most people are shocked when I tell them that I have never been until this week. Well, call me crazy, but although I obviously love to eat, I do NOT love to wait in line. I'm a big fan of those things called "reservations" and it's hard to find something I'd be willing to wait 2 hours for.
I've heard almost universal raves for this place, with one important exception: my dad. Given his now-flexible lunch schedule, he was able to swing by here a while ago at some strange time, and reported that it was not worth waiting for. I must admit that with my zero experience with Burmese cuisine, I've had a fear deep down that Burma Superstar was like the House of Nanking of Burmese food, with foreigners blindly lining up for some totally average numnums.
That said, dinner was being planned with former co-worker/new supermom Christina, and Burma Superstar was the destination. With the added bonus of catching up with a friend, plus the fact that we were gonna show up really early, I finally felt like it was worth trying the place. Why not? I guess it was due.
Lara, one of the biggest Burma Superstar loyalists I have ever met, swears by this soup. And, it turns out, for good reason. Although it basically looks like a bowl of crap (not unlike many delicious Chinese soups out there), this soup is damn tasty, with ton of unidentifiable spices, a hint of curry, and a blend of different textures from the various ingredients. And what's not to like about samusas in a soup? It turns into kind of a big delicious mush. (Also, the Burmese apparently spell it samusa instead of samosa, but they are pretty similar.)
This tea leaf salad is the other signature dish, and comes recommended by just about everyone I know. I'm not sure how the tea leaf is used exactly - but from what I can tell, it's ground up and used as the base for the dressing. Like the soup, this salad's fame is well-deserved. It doesn't look like much, but the variety of textures and flavors really pops in your mouth. It's refreshing and delicious.
Or, in other words, Burmese samosas. Wikipedia doesn't seem to be able to explain the difference. After trying a few chunks of these in the soup, I thought they were worth trying crispy. They're definitely a good version, with a pleasant curry filling and a nice little chili sauce.
Food so far had been as advertised, but unfortunately the mains weren't as good as the apps. This garlic chili shrimp had tons of shrimp paste, and tasted more like that than garlic or chili. Heat was nonexistent.
Lamb curry was just decent - nothing spectacular. It had some nice flavor, but lacked heat. Also, the unpictured rice was not made very well, which hurt the curry sauce/rice combination quite a bit. In fact, the sub-par rice probably weakened all of the mains pretty significantly.
On the flip side, this simple stir fried broccoli was quite good. The broccoli was crisp but tender, and the onions on top were a nice touch.
We finished off with this interesting-sounding noodle dish. Turns out it was just a long way of saying fettuccine, but it was still quite tasty. The noodles weren't overcooked, and the curry sauce was an unusual pairing for me. Still it would have been a lot better if they used dark meat, and doubled or tripled up the chili...
So I must say, the meal was decent, and we only had to wait about 20 minutes. Still, I have trouble seeing the ultra-hype. The soup and salad are no doubt worth returning for, and if I came back again I'd probably order more of those and center the meal around them. But, I don't plan to ever wait 2 hours for it - I'd rather drive down the street a minute and get some noodles at King of Thai or some roti at Singapore Malaysian. No wait.