Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen

Hi guys, hi.  I know, I abandoned you for far too long.  I also know you don’t visit this blog to learn about my personal life (yeah right, you’re all obsessed with me, duh), so I’m not going to go on and on with excuses.  I’ll just say that it was a combination of long vacations and laziness, and I can’t promise it won’t happen again.  But I can promise that this blog is not dead!  Long live Goldentooth!

On to the eats!  After the gym on a Sunday morning Steve and I swung round the Tenderloin with the idea to get some pho somewhere.  On our way up Larkin our eyes were caught by the Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen and we decided to switch gears (ha ha, get it, because we were on bikes…and we switched gears…get it?) and have lunch there.  I was pretty psyched because I had only had Burmese food once, at Burma Super Star of course, where else, so the chances that I would be trying something new were pretty good.  And I love trying new things! 

I was expecting LEBK to be like a deli counter sort of place, almost half convenience store.  I guess it used to be more like that, but something changed, I don’t know if they’re under new management or what, but I thought it was pretty nice inside.  The decor is not extravagant, but I liked the autumnal colors and the tapestries and what not.  The dining area isn’t huge but they don’t cram a million tables into the smallish space, which is nice.  It was also nice that for most of the time we were there we had the place to ourselves.

If I wanted to oversimplify things in a very American way, I would say that the LEBK menu read like a cross between Indian and Vietnamese cuisines.  It was hard to pass up the noodle soups and the intriguing salads, but they offer a long list of combos that are too good not to order.  After much deliberation I decided on combo meal A, which is chicken or pork curry (I chose chicken), and vegetable (I chose sauteed stripped bamboo), dried shrimp paste and rice.  Steve ordered the combo meal D, which is a choice of any two meat curries (Steve went with chicken and beef), a vegetable (sauteed yellow pea and onion in this instance) and rice.  We also ordered a dish of samusas to start, because I just couldn’t resist.  I started with a mug of Burmese milk coffee

It was like any other hot coffee drink sweetened with condensed milk, but that never gets old with me.  It is the essence of deliciousness in a cup.  In my excitement over the milk coffee I neglected to read the menu closely enough to see that all the combo meals come with Organic Burmese hot tea.

It’s ok though, because the tea had nothing on the coffee.  Don’t get me wrong, it was nice and had a taste I couldn’t quite pin down, kind of like slightly bitter apricots, but tea is a second tier hot drink, no question.  Sorry tea, you know I still love you.

Samusas came out looking all gorgeous golden and crispy.  They came with a sauce that was bright red, an eensy bit sweet, spicy with big chili flakes and complexly salty, probably, I would guess, from some sort of preserved fish product.  The wrappers were perfectly light and greaseless, and the potato filling steamed as you bit into them.  The slight sweetness of the tuber mix was just right complemented by the dipping sauce.  Thinking about them now, my mouth is watering, I can taste that chili sauce…man, you guys, I think this is the perfect food.  I’m getting a little emotional over here. 

Ok, let’s snap out of it and get back to business, shall we?  Entrees have arrived;

Have I ever mentioned how much I love sectioned plates?  It’s not important right now, just thought I’d point that out.  Anyway, that bamboo looks a little scary, right?  Because it has big big slices of jalapeno in it.  I was definitely a bit scared at first.  I had a few tentative bites before I began to really chow down.  It was hot, certainly, but also bright and crunchy and slippery.  The chicken curry had a flavor that I want so badly to describe as murky, but I’m afraid that sounds unpleasant, when it totally isn’t.  It’s really delicious, but the flavor is deep and complex and feels dark on your tongue.  It’s spicier than the average curry you’ll come across and leaves a slow burn.  Of course the perfectly steamed white rice was the ideal companion for the curry.  Mm, so tender and creamy.  Love you forever white rice. 

The one thing that confused me during my meal was this, the dried shrimp paste.  It was not a paste as I understand pastes, it was more like a seasoning mix, it was very dry with clearly separated elements.  I didn’t know what exactly I was to do with it; I added a bit to some rice, but the flavor was very very strong.  In the end it was left by the side of my plate.  I suppose I should have asked what it’s purpose is, perhaps next time I will.  But it must be just a condiment, right?  If you know, please leave it in the comments, won’t you?

Ha, I’m finding the beige-ey beige-ness of Steve’s meal amusing in retrospect.  At the time I didn’t even notice it because everything was so delicious.  The beef curry was very tender and slightly smokier than the chicken curry.  The yellow peas were al dente with slightly chewy skins, which made for a nice texture contrast with the rest of the squishier dishes.  And I am on a real onion kick right now, so I appreciated the sweet oniony flavor that permeated the legumes. 

Should we talk about neighborhood?  LEBK is decisively in the Civic Center area of the Tenderloin, just a bit north of City Hall, and just south of the Larkin restaurant corridor proper, so things are pretty quiet in the immediate vicinity.  So quiet in fact that, if you were to visit, you would probably find yourself in the same situation we did, which is the lone customer in the restaurant.  Though I imagine it might do a brisk workday lunch business.  Still, if you like bustling joints, this isn’t for you.  If you like to eat quietly and like empty streets, check it out.

All in all, I was completely charmed by Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen.  Writing this post today, I was overcome with a desire to return IMMEDIATELY!  Next time I will certainly visit in the early evening, when they have a completely insane happy hour deal; 4 to 6pm any beer or wine (I assume they mean glasses of wine) is just two dollars!  Unbelievable.  Spicy food and cheap beer…does it get any better than that?

Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen

452 Larkin St

5 thoughts on “Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen

  1. You are right. The so-called “paste” is definitely a condiment. It is called “Balachaung” and everyone’s recipie is different. It will usually be spicy but some versions do without chili and there are even vegetarian versions. You can sprinkle them on salads, rice etc.( ) I think people should stop VERY roughly translating the names and provide descriptions instead. Besides, people seem to like it more when names sounded foreign and “exotic” lolz. You have to try “Ohn-no-khauk-swe” aka Burmese coconut chicken noodle soup if they have it.

    • Thanks Lin! I’ll have to try it again next time now that it’s been demystified. I think they do have the soup you speak of, it sounds really delicious. I agree with you on the one hand about the translations, it would be nice to know what something is instead of ending up confused, but sometimes creative translations can be charming and often a mystery is kind of fun.

  2. I love the first photo of the doorway! The “autumnal colors”..Oh yeah! I must try some of that dried shrimp paste stuff, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  3. Pingback: Tenderblog » When the Superstar is busy, go to the Burmese Kitchen

  4. Pingback: Wake up call « pre- and post- twenty

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s