I quarantined for the holidays with my folks–the longest I’ve lived with them since moving to Los Angeles years ago–giving me the opportunity to try a bunch of SF & San Mateo restaurants’ takeout operations.
Growing up in the Bay Area I always had Burmese food around me, and without nearly as large a community down in Los Angeles, it’s one of the cuisines I miss most and always make sure to get when visiting family.
Burma Superstar is probably one of the most well known operations and has spawned a mini group with B*Star and Eats. The little shop on Clement street is where I discovered tea leaf salad and knowing times are tough in the COVID era I made a point to get some lunch take out.
Tea Leaf Salad
Lettuce, cabbage, peanuts, fried yellow beans, fried garlic, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tomatoes, jalapeños, dried shrimp, fermented tea leaf dressing
Burma Superstar’s tea leaf salad is a bit more California inspired by including lettuce, which gives it a softer and lighter mouthfeel. Instead of crunch mainly coming from the cabbage then, it gets a bit of extra snappiness from having larger chunks of fried garlic and thicker cuts of tomato and jalapeño.
Anytime there are fried brussels sprouts on the menu they’re going into my order. Listed as an appetizer and taken from the B*Star menu, this could easily feed a couple people as a side because they’re quite rich—topped with furikake, popped rice, and parmesan. I don’t know if I’ve ever not liked fried brussels sprouts, so it’s tough to say where it ranks, but that’s a power ranking for another day.
Chef Intu-on Kornnawong’s pop up has shown up on a couple of end of year lists so far and it’s easy to see why. Chef Kornnawong has cooked at both Kin Khao (my favorite SF Thai spot) and Night + Market, and it’s great to see her cooking her own style of Issan Thai.
Intu-on’s papaya salad, is spicy, funky, and packing some massive dried shrimp. It also has apples in it, which gave an interesting sweet crunch.
Laab Brussel Sprout
Here I am again with the brussel sprouts this time prepared like laab. It’s an interesting twist that doesn’t try to imitate meat and just lets the vegetables do it’s own thing.
Kanom Pung Nha Koong
This shrimp toast was definitely the star of the show and an absolute banger. Soaked in mayo, slathered with a shrimp/pork fat mousse, and then fried, this really knocked me out. It was still texturally light, and some herbs and pickled chili on top brought some balancing brightness to the dish. I was super bummed I only ordered one because it can only with four small pieces.
I didn’t manage to make it to Kin Khao spinoff Nari when they debuted in 2019, so I was happy to see they’re still hanging in there and offering takeout meals through the pandemic. Overall, this was a great meal and one that makes me look forward to eventually dining in with them.
Maitake Mushroom Tom Kha
Fragrant and silky broth with a good amount of mushrooms.
Squid and Pork Jowl
This was the highlight—especially the pork jowl that was covered in a sticky chili lime sauce.
Gaeng Rawaeng Curry of whole Cornish Game Hen with Sweet Peppers
I’m happy they were able to make this dish work for a takeout format, because it was one of their centerpieces on their dine in menu. The game hen was perfectly cooked and stuffed with a good amount of lemongrass and shallots. The curry was mildly spicy and something that I admittedly just sipped on its own.
Delicata Squash XO
The housemade XO was packed with umami, but the most disappointing thing about this was that it was such a small serving to split between two people.
Following the squid and pork jowl, these little duck/curry handpies were the next best thing.
The puffed rice harvest bar served as dessert and reminded me of an even more bougie KIND bar. It disappeared quickly.
Formerly a pop up and now a small operation set up near 26th in the Mission, I jumped at the chance for some specialty northern Iranian cuisine.
I love Kuku Sabzi and make it myself as a chill weeknight dinner occasionally, but this fell sort of flat to me. I wish there was a bit more herby punch, but the sumac labneh rescued it a bit. I also got some smoked trout on the side, which was good as well.
Morgheh Torsh Khoresh
This walnut, herb, and pomegranate molasses stew though was amazing. Both sweet and sour, this chicken thigh and drumstick stew was so flavorful I’m thankful it came with a side of rice that I could use to make sure a drop didn’t go wasted.
Wild Flour Bread
My family and I took a day trip up to Sonoma and stopped off at Wild Flour Bread in Freestone, just a short drive from Sebastopol. During COVID they’re only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 8am to 6pm, and will just cross items off the board when they sell out.
A bit tough to break through (we got there in the afternoon so it had been sitting around a bit) but the aged gouda, onions, and herbs are a winning flavor combination.
This crazy sticky piece of bread is packed with big chunks of fig, pear, and ginger. Wonderful.
Pumpkin Cranberry Persimmon Scone
A bit drier but still chewy and with good pumpkin flavor. The big chunks of permission and cranberry add bursts of flavor when you get to them.
Double Chocolate Nut Scone
This scone was a bit on the harder and more crumbly side (even the exterior had a slight crunch to it) but it was very chocolatey, had an aggressive chocolate drizzle, and the walnuts didn’t get in the way.
Artichoke Cheddar Scone
This was the best scone of the bunch—perfectly baked with a soft interior. It was a bit similar to the gouda flat just because it had cheese, but was texturally better as well.
Whole Rotisserie Chicken
Chipotle Yogurt, Chimichurri, Douglas Fir Sour Cream, Beet Tahini
Super juicy and snappy, crispy skin on the chicken. The four sauces were great mixing and matching to give each bite a little something different.
Vegetable side Power Ranking:
- Roasted Brussels Sport Caesar (duh)
- Baked Potato (holy shit it was packed with cheese and had crispy chicken skin on top)
- Shredded Cabbage and Almond (nice and simple)
- Seared Broccoli (healthy to balance everything else out)
The fam opted for Angler sides to round out our Christmas Eve meal.
Radicchio with Radicchio XO
While this was deconstructed (so much fun to cut into while dining in) it was every good as I remember it. It’s absolutely mind blowing how they’re able to create this amazingly delicious dish.
Mac and Cheese
Equally gooey and tasty.
Grilled Brassicas with Meyer Lemon and Garum
My first time having this, but it is crazy how the Garum totally takes a simple broccoli to another level.
Little Gem Caesar
The egg yolk dressing for the Caesar was so damn good. I wish there were little chunks of anchovy, but with heavy amount of parm and a dump truck load of breadcrumbs this was damn near perfect.
For our Christmas Day feast we ordered the Peking Duck Christmas feast from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown. It came air dried for 10 days and ready to roast with a set up instructions, as well as a number of sides: a duck liver mousse, pear salad, roasted shiitake mushrooms, pancakes, condiments, and a ginger cake for dessert.
The duck came with extensive instructions to prepare, but they were easy to follow even though we needed to cook it a bit longer because it came out still raw the first time. Once it was ready, rested, and carved it was clear that we had just made something that we normally would never be capable of attempting from scratch. Overall, it was a great meal and I was impressed how we actually got the skin to be pretty crispy! As a bonus we used to leftover duck carcass to cook up a rich duck stock.
The Berkeley institution has pivoted nicely to a hybrid takeout/market, churning out salads, vegetables, and pizzas alongside produce boxes and wine. I stopped by for their Sunday Market, which runs from 12pm-3pm to pick up a couple dishes for dinner.
Sunday dinner: Northern halibut steamed with fresh bay leaves; with spinach, glazed carrots and turnips, and Meyer lemon butter
Escarole and Radicchio Salad with Caesar Dressing and Garlic Croutons
This absolutely slapped. The fish was perfectly cooked, but even more impressive was how amazing the vegetables were. The spinach looked forgettable, but retained so much flavor I wished that there was more. As for the Caesar salad, the dressing was outstanding, but again I need to recognize the tender quality of the produce.
Lap Pat Dok (Tea Leaf Salad)
A more traditional tea leaf salad than Burma Superstar’s, which in takeout format is also a bit unbalanced for better and for worse. While the amount of each component is a bit out of whack (not enough cabbage, a very generous amount of fried garlic) the bright side is that they also give you a big container of fermented tea leaf dressing, which lasted me multiple salads. Mingalaba still remains my favorite Burmese restaurant outside of the city, and I’m happy to see them hanging in there with takeout because it always had a long wait in the before times.
The Anchovy Bar
The folks behind State Bird Provisions and The Progress opened up The Anchovy Bar this year, and as a big fan of their two other restaurants I tried to sneak in a takeout order after they shut down outdoor dining. The obvious choice was their Anchovy Toast Kit, which we threw together at home. It comes with all the basic ingredients (minus the bread) but doesn’t provide the crème fraîche or cucumbers that are served alongside it for in person dining. While our execution probably wasn’t as spot on as the chefs would make it, it was still delicious. The anchovies themselves are super high quality, with a smooth tenderness, but it’s the tomato vinaigrette they provide is the unique element that makes this come together. I hope the Anchovy Bar is able to make it through this next round of shut downs so I can eventually dine in.
Also limited to takeout orders, I picked up the chef’s menu (it changes every week) alongside some additions. Let me get my overall impression out of the way first: this was the best takeout I had during my time in the city so far. Not only was the chef’s menu outstanding, but the couple add ons I had actually had me saying “wow”. I hadn’t visited enough to make it to Rich Table to dine in person before and because they were sold out of a couple items I would have liked to try—such as the sardine chip—this restaurant will be number one on my list for the next time I’m up in the city.
Butternut Squash Spring Roll
Light. Fresh. Crunchy.
Chef’s Menu: just a note that some of the portions here are much bigger than what is shown, but overall very satisfying amount of food.
Hummus and Flatbread
Sumac dressing was super simple and bright. The flavors were great, but I wish there was more crispy pita, cucumber, and radish to bring more textural contrast
Chicken Shish Tawook & Almond Rice Pilaf
The chicken was perfectly juicy and came wrapped in foil for reheating. Rice was buttery and perfectly seasoned.
Rosewater Panna Cotta
This was a fantastic dessert. I’m usually quite meh on panna cotta, but the flavor coming from the rosewater paired with the pistachio crumble took this someplace special
I ordered some takeout for the fam post Christmas craving Mexican food and having heard good things about Nopalito’s carnitas. It absolutely delivered on what we were looking for—the entire portions are huge and incredibly satisfying.
Bruselas Al Pastor
Deep fried and oily, but nicely balanced with the acidic pickled onion, citrus, and pomegranate.
Woof, I can see why these come so highly recommended. They were transcendent—absolutely falling apart tender while being super crisp on the outside.
Mole Poblano Con Pollo
If this was just half, this must have been one big chicken. The mole was great, though not as complex as others I’ve had, but I wish there was more as we needed to ration it out among large amount of juicy meat.
Not only was the broth nicely seasoned but the vegetables were very tender. There was also some tofu in here, which I wasn’t expecting alongside the chicken and chickpeas, so it was definitely packed with protein.
Empanada Con Deshebrada Des Res
This empanada is made with a fried corn pastry, making it much crisper and even a bit crunchy. The stewed tomato and beef filling was tasty and also very tender.
Kin Khao is one of my favorite Thai spots in the city, and while their Union Square location remains closed, they have kept their newer spot in the Dogwatch open for takeout.
Crunchy Cabbage Salad
Nice and fresh but plussed up with some fried tofu.
Som Tom Papaya Salad
Not as spicy or funky as other versions, but still carrying a decent amount of heat.
This seemed to be a new offering and it was a grand slam. The pork meatballs were delicious, but I really loved the fried balls of rice.
Subtly spicy and rich, it was much of what I remembered from the Union Square location last year. Special shoutout to the takeout packaging, where everything was separated and ready to be reassembled at home.
Mushroom Hor Mok Terrine
This is the perfect chip and dip appetizer. It’s also got a nice latent heat, but there is a heft and a richness to it that is deeply satisfying.
And now, the brussels sprouts power ranking:
- RT Rotisserie
- Burma Superstar