B Star Bar: Traveling to Burma and Beyond in the Richmond

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Burmese Food San Francisco


For the second straight year, my family and I were on the hunt for Fourth of July dinner in San Francisco, and predictably, we ran into a spate of holiday closures…at our first six choices. Thankfully, in a city with such a clear commitment to cuisine, it didn’t take long to find compelling alternatives. We’d all eaten at Burma Superstar before, and while that particular restaurant may be better known, we preferred the food (and the shorter wait) at B Star Bar, aka B*, a spinoff that moved beyond Burma to Thailand. China, India, Japan and California.

According to Mike, the manager, Desmond Htunlin was born in Burma and his wife/co-owner Joycelyn Lee is Chinese and was born in the Philippines. He was a stockbroker and headhunter, and she worked in design before being laid off about a decade ago. They learned Burma Superstar was set to close to become a Chinese restaurant, stepped in and bought it to maintain the Burmese heritage and became restaurant owners over the weekend. They also own Eats down Clement Street.

B Star Bar is spacious relative to Burma Superstar, with 90 versus 60 seats, including a back patio. The vibe’s also hipper, they’ve got beer and wine, and rap music is bound to make an appearance.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Burma Superstar showed no restraint in advertising Deviled Tea Eggs on multiple blackboards, but they were out of them. No matter. The large menu still yielded plenty of interesting results. B Star crispB Sprouts ($6.75) were a surprising highlight, featuring fried Brussels sprouts sprinkled with an umami-rich mix of fish sauce, crisp popped rice, sharp Parmesan shavings and furikake, an Japanese seasoning.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Kabocha Croquettes ($7) were pretty much a vegetarian’s dream, panko-breaded, deep-fried and pillowy, kind of like a savory version of an Indian dessert. They received the gift of roasted red bell pepper sauce, curry spices, crunchy slaw and shredded cilantro.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Fried Chicken Wings ($6) were relatively simple, fried to a golden brown, locking in the juices, sprinkled with snipped scallions and served with a tangy lemon juice and black pepper dip.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Tea Leaf Salad ($9) is a Burmese classic, presented in distinctly colorful piles of romaine, ginger, fried garlic chips, peanuts, sliced jalapeno, sunflower and sesame seeds, tomato and tea leaves.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Mike mixed our tea leaf salad tableside, integrating the ingredients’ acidity, spice, tang and crunch. A squeeze of lemon articulated the flavors even more.

Burmese Food San Francisco
The only bland, uninteresting dish of the evening was Spicy Tuna Ceviche ($9), seared pepper crusted albacore dressed with jalapeno, avocado and wakame (seaweed strands). This is the kind of dish you’d be able to find in a lot of restaurants, and didn’t seem to fit with the other origins.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Duck Lettuce Cups ($8.75) were a hit, with shredded duck cooked with and flavoring a mince of carrot, onion, lop cheong (sweet pork sausage) and shitake mushrooms. The savory mélange and shavings of red bell pepper all fit snugly in crisp romaine lettuce leaves. No utensils necessary.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Pumpkin Pork Stew ($12) was our only unanimous choice, and it turned out to be a good one, featuring tender pork chunks stewed with semi-sweet kabocha squash and ginger, which delivered a hint of heat. Cilantro and rice dressed with sweet toasted coconut completed the plate.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Chicken and Shrimp Biryani ($14.50) was fairly straight forward, but still quite comforting, featuring basmati rice baked with peas, toasted shaved almonds and hard-boiled egg. Chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon, regular refrains at B Star Bar, once again had their voices heard.

Burmese Food San Francisco
Black Rice Salad ($11) wasn’t a dish with explosive flavors, but it would be easy to see eating that bowl with simple grilled salmon on a regular basis. The nutty forbidden rice, fresh-shucked avocado and red onion strands worked in healthy harmony with a bed of hijiki mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

Burmese Food San Francisco
We continued our swim through the sea with Miso Cod on Garlic Noodles ($17). The fettuccine-like noodles were overcooked, but there was a lot to like about the marinated cod, sweetened with soybean paste until caramelized, with fillets easily pulled into juicy sheets. Beyond that, the dish was all about texture, with arugula leaves, julienne cucumber, shitake and oyster mushrooms and cuts of asparagus. A judicious amount of chile oil and crispy fried garlic bits added some oomph.

Burmese Food San Francisco
It was tempting to relive the mango lassi, which was once so great at Burma Superstar, but my relatively light choice was a lychee mint smoothie ($4.50), just sweet fruit, herb and ice.

The menu had some interesting dessert options, including black rice pudding with coconut ice cream, coconut cream, berries and sesame seeds; and Dragonwell green tea gelato topped with azuki beans and strawberries, but by the time I returned from the restroom, my dad already asked for the check. That was fine, since we had some Fourth of July fireworks to see

It may have taken some holiday constraints to learn about B Star Bar, but it won’t take a special occasion to return. Their menu is more interesting than what you’d find at Burma Superstar, the restaurant’s more spacious and stylish, and there’s bound to be less of a wait.

B Star Bar: Traveling to Burma and Beyond in the Richmond

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

I just tried the B sprouts yesterday and loved them! I want to replicate them for Thanksgiving but am not sure I’ll get the ration of ingredients right. Any chance you have specifics? Thanks!

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Agree! Excellent meal together. Nice photos.

Thanks. See you soon in San Francisco.

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