Excited about some new Burmese prospects in town as reported here, I managed to slide into Larkin Express Deli for a late lunch three weeks ago. A new sign was going up on this small storefront promoting Burmese food when I arrived.
Putting on a new Burmese face -
The place is actually larger and deeper than it seems from the street and has a few two and four-tops. You order at the counter. Most of the offerings are standard lunch fare of sandwiches and salads, a holdover from the previous owners. The deli case now has some more substantial things like meatloaf and pasta that can be reheated in the microwave, as well as salmon cooked to order. Even though this place is reputed to make a great roast turkey sandwich, I was here for something from the Burmese side of the menu.
Image of Burmese menu in the window -
With no other customers in the house, the owner took the time to chat with me. He explained that he’s always wanted to offer his native cuisine and has been introducing the dishes little by little to test the demand and minimize waste. So far, they’ve been well-received and his overall business has increased month over month. He has another “American” restaurant on Taraval, Tennessee Grill. His breakfast cook from the grill is handling the new operation. He has plans to open earlier to offer a full, sit-down breakfast with table service here as soon as he can find the right server for the job.
Image of chicken coconut soup with noodle (ono kauk swe) -
I ordered my favorite Burmese standard, ono kawk swe or chicken coconut noodle soup, $5.50. This was a very nice version with fresh cilantro and lime wedges on the side. Rounded flavors with just a bit of red chili oil drizzled on the top for a bit of piquancy, this was comforting. The chicken stock had that fresh, homemade taste and depth. Tender almost falling apart chunks of boneless dark meat were plentiful on top of softish egg noodles. The fried yellow peas were a surprise for a small operation like this. When the owner came over to ask my opinion, I said I liked the crispy, fried pea cake. He said that the kitchen makes the chicken stock from scratch and fries the peas in “good oil, no transfats”. Fish sauce/dried shrimp flavor was barely noticeable. I did mention that I liked fried garlic and shallots and hard-cooked egg too. He then brought me some shaved red onions ratchet up the flavors.
A very nice showing foodwise and for the pocketbook. I’ll be back soon to try more of the menu.
Larkin Express Deli
452 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94102
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