127 Clement St.
Cross: 2nd Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94119
NOVEMBER 20, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO It
was a rainy night (as opposed to a dark and stormy night, because
that would mean I am Snoopy) and a couple good friends wanted to
scoop me up for a last-minute dinner somewhere new. Oh yeah, and
it’s Saturday, 8pm. And we don’t have reservations
anywhere. Bleak, no?
Not quite. I suggested the new-ish ~B STAR BAR~,
just a few blocks down from the original Burma Superstar, and was
shocked when we were able to snag a table over the phone, especially
considering the usual interminable waits at Burma Superstar. “Can
you be here in 15 minutes?” Hells yes. Fortunately, the parking
fairy helped us meet our commitment. Score.
casual restaurant opened in the former Bistro Clement space about
six months ago, and is so well lit you really can’t
miss it. Beam me up, Scotty. There are a number of bright
globe lights suspended from the ceiling that have a vintage-y institutional
look and cast an even glow on the room—our table was divided
on whether we liked the warm brightness.
The look is kind of Shaker-meets-Asian, or perhaps Pier One bistro
goes to the flea market in Philly, with Americana elements like
wood banquettes and tables, a wood plank floor that had a lovely
patina, old fashioned desk/banker chairs, a clever coat hook made
with shoe trees, and a blackboard above a rustic hostess desk,
all paired with a quirky modern floral display, some Asian statuary,
bright green chopsticks on each table, and Mondrian-esque mirrors
that are best described as Asian-industrial.
menu reflects this same fusion/cross hybridization approach.
You’ll find a few Burma Superstar favorites, like the tea
leaf salad ($8.50) and a variety of noodles dishes, but then you’ll
also find flank steak salad ($11), figs n’ pigs ($11), prosciutto-wrapped
figs with blue cheese, and “beer-fed” pork belly with
white beans and bok choy ($13.50). Burmese bistro?
menu is all over the map, but this is why it’s a cinch
for group dining: I’d wager almost everyone would find something
they would like, especially good for those tricky meat-eater and
vegetarian mixed groups. Plus most of the dishes are affordable,
and easy to share.
were a couple big parties seated in the back, on the upper level
of the dining room, which did make for some noise. Thank god
the (ugly) flat screen TV above the bar had the volume off—I
am so tired of seeing TVs in non-sports bar restaurants. We were
seated in the front lower section, which shielded us a bit from
the group roar, but also made for rather sporadic service. Our
servers were definitely friendly, just a bit forgetful. A few
times we almost heard crickets at our table, cheep cheep.
started with the recommended kabocha croquettes ($6), three piping
hot panko-breaded balls that featured a whisper of curry, with
scallion scattered on top, and a soy-based sauce drizzled on
the plate. Big hit. Crunchy meets creamy. We also couldn’t
resist the fish and chips ($8), a pile of fried baby smelts under
a blanket of house-made potato chips. We took turns dipping the
crispy little fries with eyes into the sides of curry aioli and
malt vinegar, but my favorite way was to just eat the little buggers
nuts about eggs, I would eat them every day and on everything,
so we had to order the deviled tea eggs topped with tobiko ($5).
Four egg halves were plated on a bed of red cabbage (the cabbage
was also a base for the croquettes). I fully embrace spicy, I think
I have at least eight hot sauces in my fridge, but the sriracha
aioli just obliterated any nuance from the tea smoking.
was a chilly night, so we couldn’t wait for our bowl
of vegetarian samusa soup ($9.50) to show up. Food comes out here
fast and furious, so we didn’t wait long. In fact, tell your
server you’ll want your food coursed after your appetizers,
otherwise everything may come out at once—our mains showed
up way too early and ended up sitting and cooling while we were
just getting started with our soup. But what a soup it was: rib-sticking
thick, tangy, and spiced (one friend broke out in a sweat), with
satisfying chunks of potato, crunchy chunks of falafel, lentils,
and cabbage. The serving was quite big, but just right for three–four
people (I wouldn’t order this as my own dish—too much
of one thing).
continued on the hearty tip, ordering the kau soi coconut chicken
noodles ($11), described as border-town food from Burma. This
sloppy (well, maybe I am sloppy—I splashed some sauce not
once but twice on my shirt) and seasoned dish was full of flavor
and texture, with ground chicken, hard-boiled egg, pickled mustard
greens, crunchy bean spouts, cilantro, and crisp won ton chips.
Good rainy night food, but it might be a mess of too many flavors
for those who prefer simpler flavors and dishes.
also dug into the yellow bean vegetarian ragu ($8.50), a spicy
number made with lentils, tomato, zucchini, and almonds, accompanied
by almond-topped rice. Nothing earth shattering, and the lentils
were a touch undercooked, but it was savory nonetheless. For you
vegetable-heads, there are all kinds of vegetarian options on the
menu, like wild rice salad ($8.50), at least three noodle dishes,
and ten of the 14 appetizers are vegetarian as well.
counted 16 mains in all, with many choices that sounded interesting,
like a green curry salmon potpie ($12), or Prather Ranch oxtail
with a parsnip mash ($16.50). The most expensive item is the
10–12 oz. grilled rib eye ($18), so dinner won’t
bleed you dry. Small note: they will hopefully start using Prather
Ranch for the rib eye, so I imagine the price will go up a smidge.
include an affogato and warm chocolate cake, but we opted for
the black rice pudding ($6.75), with coconut cream, strawberries,
and coconut ice cream—we scooped up every bite of this
refreshing finish. We also ordered some Vietnamese coffee, but
the condensed milk that was mixed in was so cold it made the
this perfect food? No, but it’s easy and what I call
Monday night food (as in “I don’t feel like cooking”)
and “get together with friends” food. I like how cheeky
the menu is, with little bits of humor and personality throughout.
were fired up that the food-friendly Chimay Tripel was offered
on tap—we ordered a 48 oz. pitcher for $25 (no, that was
just not for me), and there is also Pilsner Urquell (another fave
with food), Hefeweizen, and Peroni on draft too. The tight wine
list includes Navarro and Ridge, so that’s commendable, and there
are soju cocktails as well.
secret time: there is a spacious patio in the back. No, it’s
not really the season for it, but the enclosed patio is well
heated, and even on a rainy night was quite cozy. I can imagine
it being an ideal lunch spot in the summer, and they also serve
brunch on the weekend.