This Burmese/Chinese hole-in-the-wall inspires such cultish devotion that regulars—including both value-conscious college students and ethnic-food connoisseurs—have been known to wait two hours for a table. (Reservations aren’t accepted, although you can leave your cell number for the hostess and have a drink elsewhere while you wait.) The draw: samusa soup (a virtuous-sounding but devilishly rich brew of potato dumplings, lentils, cabbage, and falafel), Burmese curries (less spicy than Indian curries, and heavy on onion, garlic, ginger, and the country’s famous dried-shrimp paste), and the strangely musky tea-leaf salad, whose ingredients—including lettuce, peanuts, fried garlic, and sesame seeds—are chopped for you tableside. Though the storefront dining room is decorated with Burmese art and artifacts, it’s not exactly romantic: the room is brightly lit and the white tablecloths are covered with squares of easy-to-clean glass.
Tip: A variation of the tea-leaf salad is available down the street at the new sister restaurant, B Star Bar (127 Clement Street; 415-933-9900)—where (so far) there’s no wait.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.