Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

burma superstar

Amongst the plethora of Asian establishments that line Clement St, Burma Superstar definitely stands out from the crowd. That's not based on plugs from Food Network or Check Please, but rather because of the food. What a concept, eh? There other outposts in Alameda and Clement (B-Star), be we opted for the original at the corner of Clement and 4th.

Burma Superstar doesn't take reservations, so we were prepared to wait. Fortunately, Sheila and I headed over on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and were being ushered into the small dining area after only 10 mins! As the name indicates, it's Burmese style - influenced by China, Thailand, and India. We ordered several meals to share, which still netted a large doggie bag.

Mu Shu Vegetable Wraps - spicy stir-fried cabbage, carrots, celery, tomatoes, tofu, and mushrooms; rice paper wraps; and plum sauce. We hand wrapped our own rolls which were bursting with Asian flavors. The stir-fried veggies were crispy cooked without being soggy; the plum sauce was a great balance to the saltiness of the veggies; the rice wraps were too thin to keep in the fillings, but that did not dampen our tummy happiness. I game my giddy nod and eyebrow raise of approval which Sheila found quite amusing. Hands down the best fresh wraps I've eaten.

Vegetarian Samusa Soup - a hearty mix of split peas daal, cabbage, beans, and fried samusa (Burmese ravioli filled with potato, lentils, onions). I can only describe samusa as a burmese version of felafel. We ordered a medium bowl which were plenty. Needless to say on a cold Winter day, this hit the spot. There was balance between the broth and veggies, not too chunky and not overly watery. It tasted much like a South Indian sambar, due to the similarities in base spices and lentils. If they sold this soup at our local organic market, we'd have a batch in the freezer for emergencies!

Vegetable Curry Delux - a tomato-based curry with squash, eggplant, onion, tomatoes, and tofu. This was not a memorable dish; very similar to a veggie "shaak" at your local Indian joint. This spice level was fine, the veggies cooked well, but I wasn't ready to ask for the recipe. Sheila's homemade dishes pack a better punch.

Jackfruit Banana Chocolate Fried w/ Coconut Ice Cream - basically a jackfruit and banana spring roll coated coated with some chocolate sauce; then served with a scoop of coconut ice cream and some strawberry slices. It was decadent, especially for someone like me who doesn't like the mushy texture of bananas. The fried coating was not too crispy; the chocolate on paper sounded odd, but surprising worked with the flavors; the ice cream accompanied the dish well, although nothing compared to Mitchell's or Bi-Rite.

In my opinion, Burma Superstar is akin to an India wedding feast. The appetizers and desserts are the best parts of the meal. I would definitely go back for starters and perhaps order a different entree - maybe a tofu noodle dish. All in all, I would recommend a trek to the Inner Richmond for a real taste of Burmese cuisine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

papalote and soyrizo

The Mission, and for that matter all of SF, is a Mecca for great Mexican fare. I could pretty much each a quesadilla or veggie burrito from any one of the local joints and be happy. However, it's Sheila who has a discerning palate. So when our friends The Laffs took us to Papalote in the Mission, Sheila was withholding comments until after the meal.

Papalote recently shot into fame by being part of, and winning, and burrito episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. In fact, the wait staff still wear shirt proclaiming their victory! The eatery is typical taqueria, order at the counter, get a number, and pick a table. The menu is unique and what jumps out is the soyrizo; Only in SF, right? It's a curious taste for a vegetarian, but I am hooked especially after having it in their soft tacos. Here's my scouting report -

(1) Salsa - Tastes like a mix of roasted tomatoes, queso, and chilies. It's got some kick but won't give you heartburn 30 mins later. It's so good that you can buy a jar from the counter. Bobby Flay even noted that it was the salsa that tipped the scale in Papalote's win. Simply the best salsa I've had.

(2) Soyrizo soft tacos - There is heat from the soyrizo, which is a soy gluten immersed with the flavors of canola oil, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. The two tortillas were thick, freshly made, and the perfect size. The tacos were topped with soyrizo, queso, lettuce, and pico de gallo. I ordered my tacos "super" with sour cream and guacamole to cut the heat. They are heavy so come along with an appetite.

(3) Watermelon agua fresca - a thirst-quenching mix of fresh blended watermelons, water, and sugar. For me the best aqua fresca is lightly sweetened allowing the fruits to naturally add the rest. On a hot summer afternoon, I could drink an entire container full!

It's a value meal of fresh Mexican food that has quickly become one of our places. Don't be scared away by the thought of soy in your Mexican food. I can't say it's for everyone, but I've become a fan. Make the trip over to the corner of Valencia and 24th. It'll be worth your while.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

falafel heaven at maoz!

While traversing Europe a few years back, S and I came across several fantastic restaurants. One in particular, a hole in the wall, quickly became one of favorites - Maoz Vegetarian. We stumbled upon it in Barcelona and ended up eating our way through their outposts in London, Paris, and Amsterdam (the original). Recently they opened up a shop on Telegraph in Berkeley near Cal's campus; so we decided to be nostalgic and head across the Bay!

Their menu is simple - couple of meal deals and a la carte options. We opted for a junior maoz meal (falafel in a pita, sweet potato fries, & lemonade) and a regular falafel. The falafels were freshly made and fried crispy on order and served in a warm pita. Ingredients were fava beans, cilantro, and parsley giving a distinctive moist flavor and green color inside. The best part is the unlimited salad bar - filled with garbanzo beans, carrots, cucumbers, carrots, cole slaw, pickles, olives, cabbage, and an assortment of sauce (tahini, garlic mint chutney, yogurt, and spicy ketchup). All the sauces were excellent, but the tahini was my favorite. By the time you take a few bites, it's back to the salad bar to top up!

Overall, the falafel was just like we remembered it; brought back fond memories! The pita was a bit thicker than in Europe, but tasty none the less. As for the fries, they were a bit under-cooked so by the time we were on the last few, they were cold and raw. The lemonade was surprisingly refreshing, not sour and not sweet. Located in heart of a college town with a price point to suit, means there will always be a steady stream of hungry students for years to come. In my book it's on par with the famed Falafel Drive-In of Santa Clara/San Jose. My vote when in Berkeley (or in the East Bay), check out this place for a fast, healthy, vegetarian meal and you won't be disappointed.