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The Chowhounders' Pre-Ballet Cheap Eat: Burmese Kitchen

Whoever has the wherewithal to hunt it down will be rewarded with food not easily found in San Francisco. 

If the idea of sitting down in a gown to a pre-opera dinner at a great but bare-bones Burmese restaurant sounds fun, go for it. Owner Dennis Lin says that his patrons run the gamut, from Federal Building employees coming in for the $7.50 two-course lunch special to ballet goers headed to a performance. What started out as a sandwich shop has morphed into a full-fledged Burmese restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Whoever has the wherewithal to hunt it down will be rewarded with food not easily found in SF: a crunchy tamarind-leaf salad with slivers of red onion, scattered with peanuts and dried shrimp; a chicken noodle soup enriched with coconut milk and thickened with ground split peas (top it with a hard-boiled egg); an ugly-to-look-at but delicious-to-eat pork curry with pickled mango; and a popular tamarind fish. There’s no way to try every tempting menu option in one sitting; return for samusa soup and tea leaf salad (made with tea leaves that Lin brings back from Burma), which some say is better than Burma Superstar’s. In this town, those are fighting words.

Burmese Kitchen 452 Larkin St., 415-474-5569, burmesekitchen.com