Burma Love has been around forever and a day, it seems, yet I’m just now trying it for the first time. Sister to Burma Superstar, that old stalwart in the Richmond, Burma Love is buzzy, stylish and loud. Very loud. It serves up standards as you’d expect, and does them well. I visited with a friend and her dad and, though the cuisine was new to both of them, they really enjoyed the food.
Burma Love has a roomy bar where you can also eat dinner, with a nice selection of cocktails, beer and wine. I tried the Peacock’s Dream: Toki whiskey, egg white, lemon, beet syrup, amaro ciociaro, rose petals — fragrantly tasty!
Of course, we had to have the famous fermented tea leaf salad, laphet thoke. It comes with all the disparate elements piled on a plate, waiting to be tossed by your server, table-side.
The fermented tea-leaf paste and lemon juice make a tart, slightly funky dressing, with an addicting crunch from the fresh lettuce, fried garlic, beans, tomatoes and sesame seeds. I can never not order this in a Burmese restaurant, and you shouldn’t pass it up, either. And, while it wasn’t necessarily the very best version of this dish I’ve ever had, it was still fresh and delicious.
We also got chicken samusas with a spicy, tangy dipping sauce.
Very good, though I couldn’t discern any chicken in them. I’d try them with lamb next time, but they’re a warm and comforting starter.
Next, the coconut chicken noodle soup, another Burmese standard.
Best thing on the table all night. The broth was super rich, thick, and creamy, made with tender chicken thighs, coconut milk, onion, garlic, and turmeric. Accoutrements were cilantro, onion, hard-boiled eggs, chili flakes, crispy rice chips and lemon to garnish as you pleased. Extremely homey, I could slurp this all day.
We also got the tender pea shoots with wine and garlic, and topped with fried garlic.
While they were very flavorful, they were actually not tender, but super chewy instead. We did not finish these.
My friend’s father chose the garlic noodles with chicken, something I don’t associate with Burmese food, and the menu actually called it a Chinese dish.
Sadly, we all found them bland, and the chicken a bit dry. Not a dish to repeat.
Finally, we split the pork belly with mustard greens, chili and ginger.
The belly was lovely — tender and fatty, just the way I like it — and the dish brought the only real heat to our meal. Overall, a hearty, homey dish, although the mustard greens weren’t as prominent as I would have liked.
There’s so much more to try here, with many vegetarian options, such as three other classic Burmese salads: The ginger, rainbow and Inle tomato salads; the yellow bean tofu, a veggie samusa soup and, on the carnivore side, a plethora of curries, chicken and pork dishes, whole fried snapper, a variety of shrimp preparations, noodle and rice dishes, and a black rice pudding I’m dying to try.
Service was incredibly warm, attentive and friendly, by a host of young folk. The noise level is a real thing, especially for us oldsters, but this was a really good meal and I’d go back anytime, and often.
So, is Burma Love more authentic than Yamo? It’s not really fair to compare, as Yamo is a hole-in-the-wall run by a few lovely grannies cooking their hearts out in a microscopic, steamy kitchen. Burma Love is sleek and young, but someone in that kitchen knows what they’re doing, and both have a place in my heart and stomach. Spread the love around, and try them both.
211 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110