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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Early Bird Special: Burmese Kitchen

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge ROBERT LAURISTON
  • Robert Lauriston
An early nibble from the Weekly's Wednesday food review.

Sometimes, mom and pop restaurants evolve gradually, starting out as places with broad, doughnut-and-tuna sandwich appeal, later morphing into eateries grounded in food more personal and distinctive. That's the case with Larkin Express, the tiny Tenderloin-fringe deli whose bread and butter was deli sandwiches, with a secret clutch of Burmese steam-table dishes that lit up the local Chowhound-osphere like a debate about ramen rankings. Owner Dennis Lim has engineered a kind of switcheroo: Now it's the ham 'n' cheese -- not the chicken coconut noodle soup -- that's practically an off-the-menu rarity. Larkin Express has a new identity as Burmese Kitchen (452 Larkin at Turk), with cooking that can hold its own against Burma Superstar, Pagan, and Yellow Pa Taut. SF Weekly critic Meredith Brody scopes it out this week, holding forth on BK's shrimp and sour leaf, garlic noodles with pork, and -- of course -- tea leaf salad. Read the verdict later today at SFWeekly.com. But first, check out the appetite-whetting excerpt after the jump.

The Civic Center deli known as Larkin Express was the ideal of those who love to find the hidden little restaurants of the city. It was a grungy lunch place that featured quick-service American deli sandwiches such as Reubens and tuna melts, specializing in fresh-roasted turkey, but also offered a few steam-table Burmese specialties on the down-low. Alas, the place closed at 4 and wasn't open on the weekends, so few except the lunch crowd tried its samusa soup or tea leaf salad.

Owner Dennis Lim is proud of his sandwiches -- they're still available -- but he has redecorated, renamed, and rebranded his space, which is now open for dinner five nights a week. Two signs outside read Burmese Kitchen in addition to the Larkin Express ones. The old name is relegated to small type on the takeout menu, which now boasts more than 65 freshly prepared Burmese dishes.

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