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Burma Superstar lost a Burmese Trial versus Burma's House

Burma Superstar
309 Clement Street/4th Ave., SF
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Pretrial hearing at Plough & Stars


Out Front.Guest Judge Tice

Don't be fooled, folks. Contrary to popular belief, this establishment has nothing to do with this man or this band or this play or this movie. Nope. All it has to do with is some serious Burmese grub. I'm gonna be honest here: I am not as well versed in Burmese gastronomy as the rest of my esteemed council. Up until now, my knowledge of All Things Burma could be summed up in two words: pythons and shorts. Wait, that's Bermuda. Make that one thing. Suffice it to say that I was anxious to try whatever may fall into my gullet.

Our journey to the Land of Superstars began in a long line outside said establishment. If every night is like the night we went, be prepared to wait around a while. Sure you could make a reservation…but REALLY. As we waited, I questioned some exiting patrons as to their favorite dish. The only people who could muster a response muttered, "Coconut Rice. Definitely." Sounds good, folks…but could you have maybe picked an ENTRÉE?

Apparently the Coconut Rice is the dish of choice, cuz by the time we got in there it was flat OUT. All gone. No mas. I saw it on the menu though, so it must be around occasionally. If you're there and you see some, give it a try. Let me know how it is.

Samusa!As for the food we DID eat: Either we made a slight blunder in our meat picks or the sauces for a lot of the dishes are pretty similar. Besides the meat, nothing much distinguished the scallops from the chicken. Not to say they weren't good: tender with a spicy/tangy sauce that didn't lean too far to either end. The samusas were solid. Green beans were good too. Crispy. Flavorful. Not over fried. No complaints.

Then it appeared -- ladeled into our bowls with the reverence of a religious ceremony. I could tell from the expression on our waiter's face that he knew what he was holding:

Samusa Soup. I'm 'bout it. Although we (Da Judges) are writing these reviews at separate times in separate places, I can almost guar-on-tee that Samusa Soup is the Dish of Choice. If this was the final round of the Newlywed Game and I picked Samusa Soup, we'd all be going to Tahiti. If we were playing Rock/Paper/Scissors/Samusa Soup, we'd all be tied. And indestructible. You get me? Dan says: Samusa Soup it.

All in all, the Superstar is a low-key, high flavor Burmatastic dining experience. Don your python shorts and head on over.

Hey…this is the New Millennium. Shouldn't it be Myanmar Superstar?


Beans N SuchAfter a false start on our previous attempt to eat here, it was great to get in with only a short wait, maybe 15 minutes. Both times we went on a Wednesday and the place was packed with a wait list the size of an elephant's trunk -- they must be doing something right. I've had a mild interest in Burma for a while mostly through some fiction, "Burmese Days" by George Orwell and "The Glass Palace" by Amitav Ghosh.  Both very good novels. After trying the Burmese cuisine my interest only grew.

The number one awesome dish is the Samusa Soup, so delicious that any description would fall short.  That said, the soup is curry like and chock full of falafels, samusas, lentils, cabbage, and two types of potatoes (one of them mashed and fried, I believe).  Every bite is a sensation and it's worth going just for the soup. Add on a dish of spicy and crispy chicken -- deep fried chicken breast with a sweet/tangy/spicy chili and garlic sauce -- and you have a great meal for under $20 for 2-3 people.

The service was good although it was tough to get a time estimate on the wait and we did stare at a few empty tables for a bit before we got seated. It was a great evening out in the Richmond District and as always a pleasure to hang out with Guest Judge Tice whose immortal words "Oh the technology" got me through many a rough day at work.



Samusa Soup!As Bill Clinton once said, "It's the soup, stupid." And he couldn't be more right when it comes to Burma Superstar. That Samusa Soup is outta sight! Really, and I don't even like soup. Or rather, I never order soup. But when I have it, I usually like it. I guess I view it as not a real dish, somehow. Like they might use the broth to disguise the fact that there's nothing there. But there's something there here. All kinds of tasty nuggets, including falafel! Which I guess points out the crossroads-like nature of Burma. Check a map. If you can't find it, look for Myanmar. Anyway, this soup is Burma's Souper-star! Hahaha! Yeah! $7.50 for a medium bowl, $9.50 for a large.

Here's a tip: Don't order the Spicy and Crispy Chicken ($8) AND the Scallops With Garlic Sauce ($9.75) on the same visit. While they're both tasty, they're the same thing except one is chicken and one is scallops. Something like General Cho's Chicken (or scallops). I'd say Burma's House has a better version with their Burma's Pork, but this ain't bad. Neither are their Dried Fried String Beans ($7.50), with the chili sauce -- in fact they're good. Not too spicy, either. And, the samusas ($6.50 for 5) we opened the meal with were quite good. As good as I've had. Spicy, crispy, steamy, potatoey, vegetably. All good.

Burma Superstar is definitely a classier place than Burma's House, both in decor, presentation, and culinary artistry. I think a bit pricier, too. But as for the food, I'd say they are neck in neck except for that wicked Samusa Soup. And I never had to WAIT at Burma's House. So, take your pick. Go get that soup, but don't turn up your nose at Burma's House, if you're in that neck of the woods.



To my recollection, we judges had never waited to be seated in 59 previous outings. That's pretty remarkable. After nearly three years of never waiting, I think we'd begun to feel invincible, immune to this common obstacle of big city dining. Had we been charmed, due to our mission as culinary public servants? It's possible. It was more likely just dumb luck. Whatever the case, Burma Superstar put an end to it.

We'd gone there a few Wednesdays earlier, and were met with at least a 20 minute wait. The little doorway was a claustrophobic chaos. Clipboard with pencil dangling. People smoking impatiently out front. You get the idea. Spoiled by our 59-meal streak, we were indignant. "Do they know who we ARE?" (Who does? Well, there's that stranger in Arizona who bought a t-shirt. But everyone there looks at him blankly when he wears it around the state.) "The Fud Court doesn't DO waiting lists!" we joked. That didn't turn out to be a joke -- after a few minutes we trudged over to Giorgio's and ate there instead, leaving a scrawled name on the infernal clipboard.

We went back, to try again. This time around, we had the legendary Forum poster (think "gnawed human arm") and Los Angeles report cohort, Tan Dice, rolling with us. Shake 'em up, shake 'em up, shake 'em up, shake 'em. But even his fortuitous presence could not part the masses, and we were faced with another wait. So we waited. We chatted outside. We watched, like hawks, for empty tables, believing each one would be ours. Eventually, one was. This is how waiting works. It is not so bad. And when we sat down, we were ladled out one of the most amazing dishes I've encountered: Samusa Soup. On our trip to Burma's House we noted the regional collisions in Burmese cuisine, and this Samusa Soup demonstrates that like no other dish. In there you've got bits of falafel, bits of samusas, lentils, cabbage, and some other things I'm forgetting, all floating in an Indian/Thai-type spicy broth. If you added up all the influences in this big bowl, I think it would total 59. Order it. The best part is how the waiter painstakingly divvies up the samusa and falafel chunks in each person's bowl. It would be stressful to do it yourself.

The other dishes were very good. You can't beat samusas, or samosas, however you want to spell them. When these are on the menu anywhere, they're an automatic must-order for the judges, on par with potstickers in Chinese restaurants. The string beans were excellent, although some of the judges ranked them a notch lower than those at Burma's House. As others have noted, the scallops and chicken dishes were nearly identically sauced, but sauced well. I'd recommend going a little more adventurous with your order. We will next time. We'll go back, and we'll gladly wait, and that's saying a lot.






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