Restaurant Review: B Star Bar, Inner Richmond District, San Francisco

Kau Soi: The coconut chicken lurks underneath

Kau Soi: The chicken, noodles, and coconut sauce lurk underneath...

I’ve had some rotten luck on Clement Street over the last few weeks, thanks mostly to my own poor planning. I’ve definitely fallen into the “closed-on-Monday” trap recently, which can certainly sting when you’ve driven 50 miles from Napa with dim sum on your mind. But, when you make assumptions and simply hit the road on a weekday, it happens (or as we used to say in the Martini House kitchen, “Sh’appens”). Just last week, I attempted to visit Burma Superstar on a Tuesday (they’re normally open seven days a week), only to discover that they happened to be closed for some minor renovations. Talk about sh’appening — who but the most cautious diner would’ve seen this one coming? Luckily for me, Burma Superstar’s sister satellite restaurant, B Star Bar, offers a similar menu just two blocks to the east.

Ask anyone in the know, and the tea leaf salad is the requisite starter at either Burma Superstar or B Star Bar, although these salads are not exactly the same at both restaurants (the latter version does not contain any dried shrimp, which doesn’t really bother me). Frankly, I feel that the dried shrimp component is practically expendable, since both salads contain so many other great textural elements, including fried garlic slices, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and dried yellow beans. Of course, the tea leaf salad derives its name from its key component — known in Burmese cuisine as laphet — which helps to bind the ingredients and make them chopstick-friendly.

Keeping with Burmese custom, the tea leaf salad is first presented as discretely separate ingredients, and then is mixed table-side after each component is identified. The tea leaves themselves contribute a spicy, earthy, umami element to the dish, which simply transcends the realm of most Western salads, even my beloved Caesar. I have found that just as you begin to appreciate and unlock the litany of complex flavors and textures, the tea leaf salad is gone (although the spiciness will linger until the next course). If you’re anything like me, you may abandon the chopsticks for a spoon at the every end, in order to scrape the last remnants from the bowl.

For my main course, I opted for a staff recommendation (or I probably would’ve ordered the pork belly), and I was pleasantly surprised with the kau soi, a rich chicken and noodle dish served with a coconut curry sauce. The noodles are thick and flat, and the chicken is wonderfully tender. The light-brown sauce boasts a fair amount of heat, even by my standards, but also features a profound coconut flavor. Pea shoots, cilantro, fried wonton skins, and one hard-boiled egg provide the garnishes. The egg, which lesser restaurants will most likely get wrong, is boiled perfectly, and (for me) represents great care in the kitchen.

5 comments to Restaurant Review: B Star Bar, Inner Richmond District, San Francisco

  • Chrissy Robbins

    Sounds yummy, I love soup. Have you ever tried the Burmese food at Mandarin on 6th and California in SF? You have to navigate through the chinese food on the menu to find the Burmese specialties. My parents are from Burma and they are hard to please when it comes to eating out, but they especially love the green beans…Do you have any news about the new Yountville restaurant/spa?

  • ThirstyReader

    Haven’t been over to Mandarin, but I will follow that up. I assume the Yountville restaurant/spa you’re talking about is Bardessono? I had a great meal over there last Sunday, and here’s the review.

  • Chrissy Robbins

    The Yountville place is in the north end of town, next to where PJ Steak used to be….now I sound like a Napan, using old places to describe new places…..

  • ThirstyReader

    Okay, you’re talking about Vita, which I haven’t heard too much about since last summer. I believe the signage is recently up, but not sure when the opening might be. I will look into it, for sure.

  • SauceMakesITGOOD

    B Star is one of my favorite low key spots to go on a foggy night. I refresh my body with the Lentil Soup and order an entree and I am such a happy camper for the rest of the evening.

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