Last week I stopped by Paparikas, opened a month ago, after my Chinatown grocery shopping. It was almost closing time so the steam table was a bit bare, but the mix of Chinese-American, Thai and Burmese selections still looked pretty fresh. I was offered a taste of any of the dishes before choosing.
The Burmese tea leaf salad (laphet thoke) is made to order. A small is only $3, so I had to try it. The base is shredded cabbage, then I was asked if I wanted nuts, tomatoes, cilantro, or scallions. Then a heaping spoonful of fermented tea leaves topped the dish along with a squeeze of lemon juice and oil. I asked if garlic and dried shrimp were available, and I was told that was going to be the next question.
The final garnishes added were fried garlic, pulverized dried shrimp, and white sesame seeds. It was a little hard to mix in the cup-size container. This turned out to be better than I expected. The mulchy tea leaves had been dressed with oil to bloom the flavors and a good kick of chile heat. If I worked in FiDi, this might be my regular mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles (ono kau swe dok), $7.95, was a huge portion with a heft that weighed more than a pound, I'm sure. Plain noodles and the coconut chicken curry are kept warm separately, then combined to order along with garnish of green onions, cilantro, fried garlic (on request), and a squeeze of lemon juice. Though I'd purchased this for take-out, it smelled so good, I took a seat for a quick taste on the spot. Then I didn't want to stop eating it. The chicken curry was much less sweet than other versions around town, plus it had a mouth-warming amount of capsicum spiciness as well as fishy funk. This was much more like Burmese home cooking than restaurant food. I offered this feedback, and the partner said that their plan is to build in more spice and complexity. The wide egg noodles were softer than al dente, but still a welcome change from the overcooked pasta others serve. These noodles had a silky mouthfeel and a little chewiness still. Shy on chicken at the end of the day, the partner helping me offered to cook some more if I could wait or give me more of something else. I opted for the latter.
For my make-up dish, I asked for some of the sauteed veggies -- lotus root, mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, etc. On the greasy side, but well-seasoned. Basically, he gave me what was left at day's end, so a regular portion might be smaller than this.
I was also given a free ice tea to drain the container at the end of the day. So it can be advantageous to show up just before closing hour. While principally a take-out place, Paparikas has a handful of tables where you can eat in. There's a self-serve condiment station with various hot sauces and drinking water.
Paparikas is off to a good start. I'd happily order both of these dishes again when I'm in the neighborhood.
645 Clay St
San Francisco, CA 94111
Mon-Fri 11am to 4pm