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Burma Super Star

July 17, 2006

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Burma Super Star is a seemingly unassuming little eatery located on an active stretch of Clement Street, but unlike the scores of neighboring Asian eateries on Clement, Burma Super Star also ranks among some of the most hyped restaurants in San Francisco. There are always people crowding the sidewalk in front of the restaurant (as you see in the above photo), and because they don’t take reservations, waits in excess of one hour are not just commonplace, they are to be expected — a situation worsened by the appearance of Burma Super Star on the Food Network some months back. So if Burma Super Star is part of a whole night out, make sure to schedule in the lengthy wait. To ease the inconvenience of such long waits, you can write down your cell phone number and they will call when your table is ready. Of course, this frees you up to get a head start on the night of drinking at a local bar; Blue Danube (really a coffeehouse, but a decent nighttime hangout spot as well) across the street is a tried and true favorite for this purpose, and it will usually always have at least a few faces that you’ll see again later at Burma Super Star.

Burmese food includes a mixture of different elements from the cuisines of neighboring countries, such as India, China, and Thailand, but it would be a disservice to the cuisine to simply think of it in this way, since Burmese flavors are uniquely rich and delicious. Burmese cuisine has a style all its own, and as one of very few Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area, Burma Super Star is certainly a great way to get acquainted with this wonderful, yet not widely known cuisine. Burma Super Star also includes dishes which lean more towards the Chinese end of the spectrum than the Burmese, but we would recommend you stick to the more authentic Burmese dishes, which are the ones that have stars by them on the restaurant menu.

Short Exact has courageously braved the crowds and lines at Burma Super Star on many other occasions, but on our most recent trip, our dining companion had not yet had the Burma Super Star experience, and so it was imperative that we order the infamous Rainbow Salad,

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a salad containing 22 different ingredients that ranks among their most popular dishes. Included among the ingredients are four different types of noodles, green papaya, and a tamarind vinegar dressing. We won’t go into more detail, as a traditional part of ordering this salad is the listing of ingredients one receives once the dish arrives. Initially, the salad is plated with all ingredients separated, and once the speech is completed, the ingredients are all mixed together, as in the above photo. The Rainbow Salad is justifiably popular, as it contains a delicious array of contrasting flavors that nonetheless mix together very well, while the taste buds are tugged in several different directions all at the same time.

As an appetizer, we ordered the Burmese samusas,

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which contain potatoes, small chunks of minced chicken that are very lightly flavored with curry spices, and served with what they call their “house special red sauce”, which actually pairs quite nicely with the interior components of the pouch. The samusas are also a popular item, probably because it is the most Burmese of the appetizer choices. While it is tasty, it is not as wholly unique an item as many of the entrees are. It’s certainly a serviceable appetizer, and we generally enjoy it, but are not wowed by it.

Our last dish was a pumpkin stew served with pork:

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The pork here was actually really well done, very tender and well-seasoned, and it was a nice complement to the subtle flavor of the pumpkin. Nonetheless, we would venture to call the overall execution of the dish bland. It contains a good mix of ingredients, but in order to make this excellent, we believe the dish could really benefit from an additional, contrasting element that would highlight and brighten the current flavors.

So, the question of the day: is it worth the hype? In our opinion, while Burma Super Star is certainly good, sometimes very good, it doesn’t quite deserve all the hype it receives, which can often border on the extreme. The waits are long, and once you get inside, the restaurant is cramped, crowded and noisy, and the ambience doesn’t lend itself to the enjoyment of a relaxing meal. In addition, it seems that the food has declined somewhat in quality over the past few years. The execution of dishes is now inconsistent: the unique Burmese flavors, once so consistently vibrant in each dish we ordered, are now sometimes bland, muted, and unexciting. Having said that, executions are sometimes quite well done, and the service is almost always prompt and friendly, despite the somewhat frantic atmosphere. Nitpicking aside, Burma Super Star is an asset to the neighborhood, and a decent way to experience a rich and delicious cuisine.

RATING:

COST:

309 Clement Street (between 4th Ave. and 5th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415.387.2147
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11:00 am – 9:30 pm; Fri-Sat, 11:00 am – 10:00 pm.

Cuisine: Burmese
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond

How to get there: Burma Super Star is served directly by Muni line 2, and is within easy walking distance of lines 1, 4, 33, 38, and 44.

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2 comments

  1. Well-written review! We’ve heard recently from other people that B.S.S. may not live up to the hype. While we’ll definitely keep it on the (to-try) list, we’ll probably check out other places on Clement instead of standing in line…


  2. Thanks, jenfir, glad you enjoyed the writeup.

    I haven’t gotten a chance to try it yet, but the Burma Superstar folks recently opened up another restaurant, called B Star Bar, just a block or two from the Superstar. I think there’s a decent amount of overlap between the two menus, but B Star Bar doesn’t appear to have a wait. That might be a good way to try out a few of their dishes without waiting for two hours!



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