Three weeks ago, William Lue put three signs up on the food truck he has rented on Townsend and Fourth. The first, "Burmese Gourmet," he moved over from his Concord truck when he decided to break back into the San Francisco food scene. The second is a white board listing the day's specials: catfish chowder over noodles, grilled pork with garlic noodles, samosas, and tea leaf salad. The third sign extols the salad's many virtues, most notably a jolt of caffeine."Whoever thinks salad is boring needs to try this!" It says. Nothing costs more than $5.
Lue, who talks newcomers through the menu, says that he founded Burma Superstar in the 1980s before selling it to a second chef who in turn sold it to Desmond Htunlin and Joycelyn Lee, who turned the Richmond restaurant into a phenomenon. His chef, Allen, moved to the States five years ago.
Allen's catfish chowder is mild and creamy, the meat dissolving into a turmeric-yellow stew flavored with lemongrass and ginger juice. His tea leaf salad, though, is all too potent: A palm-sized tangle of fermented tea leaves, densely vegetal and a little bitter, is mixed together with iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, and fried chickpeas. It's the kind of salad you'd expect to buy on a street corner, not the more refined, delicately crunchy versions at Mandalay and Burmese Kitchen. Having eaten half a portion, I raced back to the office to pound away at the keyboard with the force of a hundred men.
The rented truck parks at the corner (in front of Limn) every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. When Lue finds a permitted space in SoMa, he'll drive his orange truck from Concord over the bridge for good.