Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mo' Mohinga, After A Circuitous Trip to Burma Superstar

As a rule, I try to steer clear of repetition in this blog, instead favoring the highlighting of exemplary versions (insofar as I can determine them to be so) of as many different Asian noodle preparations as I can find. I'm making an exception with a San Francisco mohinga survey (and perhaps one for mohinga's home boy ohn no khao swe) simply because I've become enamored of Burmese cuisine and also because it's a finite quest; there are eight and only eight definably Burmese venues that serve mohinga (and ohn no khao swe) reachable by Muni, so I'll know when my quest is a wrap.

I was saving Burma Superstar for the last of the mohingas (good pun, eh?) but fate, otherwise known as poor planning, interceded. Burma Superstar is both the most visible and the most controversial of Burmese restaurants in San Francisco, beloved by hipsters, but meh-ed, to put it politely, by Naomi Duguid, who knows a thing or two about Burmese food. By hitting the other seven joints first, I would be better equipped to form a fair assessment of the relative merits of BSS's mohinga.

I set out with great expectations for trying instead the mohinga at Mandalay, SF's most venerable Burmese restaurant. I knew Mandalay was open for lunch seven days a week, but alas, it had the bad manners to be closed for vacation until next week.  OK, my list included Pagan, also in the Richmond, albeit 28 blocks further west, which turned out to be not open for lunch.  Onward, then, with a growling stomach, to Burma Superstar, a mere block from Mandalay.  The one silver lining in all this is that after the time it took me to traverse 57 blocks to negotiate this one-block journey, there was no line at Burma Superstar, a seldom seen sight when one is hungry.

I found nothing particularly distinguishing about Burma Superstar's mohinga, other than its price.  At $10.75, it's the most expensive bowl in town and neither correspondingly bigger nor more generous in toppings than its competitors. What was there was good: the chickpea fritters were crunchy, the egg seemed recently cooked, and the rice noodlles were firm.  The broth had a good fishy depth, but was a little on the timid side, and alas, there are no condiment caddies on the tables at Burma Superstar.  If I were a Yelper I'd deduct stars for that; it's a man's right to chili up and trick out his mohinga's broth however he pleases. I also ordered a balada (or platha, as it appears on BSS's menu.  It was $3.95, but would have been $3.00 more for dipping sauce.  Instead, I used it to soak up the remaining broth in my bowl.

I've previously reported on mohinga from Burmese Kitchen, Sapphire Asian Cuisine, and, in passing, the Lil Burma food truck. Upcoming will be Mandalay, Pagan, Yamo and Little Yangon.

Where slurped: Burma Superstar, 309 Clement St. at 4th Avenue, San Francisco

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