The Bay’s Best Burmese food

Grace Bouton

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Chinese, Indian and Thai are all popular cuisines. However, Burmese food, a less popular cuisine from the country of Burma, offers a fusion of Asian flavors due to the geographical influences of China, Thailand and India. In this review, I compare three Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area: Burmatown, Burma Superstar and Mandalay.

 

BurmaTown 5/5

Located in Larkspur, Burmatown is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street from Stefanos and the Marin Primary & Middle School. The single-room restaurant gives customers a festive experience from the moment they drive up to the bright red and gold exterior to when they pay the check inside the lively and decorative interior. Although the space is small, the energy that the pictures and various banners bring to the room eliminates the need for a bigger room. Beyond the setting, the employees are both inviting and accommodating. After they originally told me there was going to be a long wait time, the staff worked to get a table ready quickly and I was seated within five minutes. This high level of service was matched by the great quality of their food. Though expensive at around $23 a person, the creamy texture of the chicken sweet potato curry as well as the contrast between the fried tofu and marinated vegetables in the stir-fry dish made the price worthwhile. Lastly, the unique Boas dish, which yields three fluffy taco shells filled with sautéed meat that melts in your mouth, stood out as the favorite and helped make Burmatown both the best of the three restaurants that I visited and deserving of five stars.

Burmatown’s beautiful and delicious Boas dish and potstickers

 

Mandalay 4/5

Only a five-minute walk from Burma Superstar, Mandalay is located on California Street and Fifth Avenue and is about a 25 minute drive from Redwood. Similar to Burmatown, Mandalay instantly exuded a festive energy that was due in large part to bright decorations such as ornaments and cutouts, as well as lively though not distracting music. The staff was welcoming, but the wait for both the seating and the food was longer than both of the other restaurants. However, when the food did arrive it almost made up for the wait. The chicken curry was perfectly creamy and went well with the tender chicken and potatoes, which were garnished with cilantro. This curry far outdid Burma Superstar’s, but was still a close second to Burmatown’s chicken and sweet potatoes curry. The stir-fried tofu, bell peppers, mushrooms and carrots was one of my favorite dishes from all of the restaurants because of the spongy tofu and spicy sauce. Though the food did not disappoint, it wasn’t quite worth the $25 per person rate. Once the food 

was on the table, Mandalay was great. However, the slower service and high price per person led me to only give it four stars.

 

Burma Superstar 3/5

Burma Superstar, located on 4th Avenue and Clement Street, is only a twenty-five minute drive across the SF bridge from Redwood. It has more of a modern take on Burmese food than Burmatown and is filled with pictures of various sites throughout San Francisco, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. I was able to be seated right away which was slightly concerning as the street was bustling with people. The waitress checked on my table multiple times throughout my meal and the service went beyond my expectations. While the space was larger than Burmatown, it did not have the same festive appeal and therefore made the overall setting of the restaurant less inviting. Similarly to the other restaurants, the food was expensive and ended up being $32 per person with drinks. Although I enjoyed my food, it definitely was not worth this amount of money. The stir fry of tofu and various vegetables was subpar because of the weak flavor in the large tofu pieces as well as the slightly undercooked and chewy bell peppers. Even though the crunchy exterior and doughy interior of the platha bread was a highlight of the meal, the liquidy chicken curry did not compare to the texture and taste of the curry at Burmatown. Beyond just the flavors of the food, the portions were on the smaller size considering the price. Burma Superstar earned only 3 stars despite its good service due to the mid-ranged quality of food and high prices.

 

Note for all restaurants: The price goes down with larger parties as it’s family style.