Last night, I took a quick cab ride home from Bourbon and Branch, where I had gone to have a drink from the amazing Martin Cate. Cate was the genius behind Forbidden Island in Alameda until a few months ago. He is fighting the good fight -- keeping the tradition of impeccably executed Tiki drinks alive. The cry that you heard around the Bay Area sometime around January was his fans freaking out when we found out that he was leaving Forbidden Island, and we did not know where he would be going next. He is doing a guest stint at Bourbon and Branch and you can try his drinks tonight (March 31) along with the throngs. It's a rare night that I happily wait in line 45 minutes for a drink, but last night I waited (and waited and waited) to try a delicious Port Light -- a drink with bourbon, passionfruit and honey that was originally made at Trader Vic's. If you choose to go tonight, you don't need a reservation -- Cate is set up in the Library (entrance on O'Farrell).
Anyway, back to the cabbie. We got to chatting -- about food, of course -- and I found out that he is Burmese. "I am Burmese and I like Mexican men, I must be honest about that," he said as we giggled. On Sunday night, I had gone to the Burmese Pagan Restaurant in the Richmond for the second time. He corrected my pronunciation of the restaurant (it's like 'Ba-Gone' with a short 'a' sound) and laughed as I told him that I want to eat ginger salad right before I die. "You must like very strong, spicy flavors," he said.
The cabbie went on to describe Burmese food in general and said that it is very influenced by the countries around Burma -- Thailand, India and China. Burmese cuisine has lots of salads, some curry dishes, and features some fermented and sour flavors. More than anything, my exposure to Burmese cuisine has been highlighted by dishes which have many layers of complexity and are delicious in their balance of flavor.
Pagan Restaurant has been open for a little over a year, and has become popular among food lovers for its comfortable space and delicious food. San Francisco is lucky in having several Burmese restaurants, including Burma Superstar, Larkin Express Deli, and Mandalay Restaurant, and Pagan is now being listed in the same breath when talking about great Burmese food.