The first day I got to San Francisco I wandered around Russian Hill where I am staying. For those fans of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books this is the neighborhood of the mythical 28 Barbary Lane. When I booked my hotel here I did so under great apprehension. I wanted to be near Market Street and the BART and MUNI, not way up the Hill in the middle of nowhere! Well, am I ever glad I was cornered into staying here. I love it. Russian Hill is very posh, but the few blocks of Polk street that make up it’s “main street” is a very diverse and charming little village in the middle of the city. One of the first places I went into was a design store where I struck up a conversation with an ex-New Yorker named Meagan who used to manage restaurants. She was very charming and fun to chat with and she was also very helpful giving me a list of cheap but good places to eat while I was here.
The first place I decide to go to on the list is a Burmese place in the Mission called Yamo.
Once seated you are confronted with 4 Asian women all speaking Mandarin. So much for Burmese authenticity. Burmese food is very much a mix of South Asian, Chinese and South East Asian cuisine. I ordered samosa (which had a funny name on the menu which I just put down to language issues). It might seem like an odd choice until you remember that Burma shares a border with both India and Bangladesh. For my entree I had a chicken and mango stir fry.
It was a tough decision and I think if I go back again for lunch I would order the tea leaf salad and a noodle dish. The Mango Chicken was OK but overly filled with green peppers and kind of like bland Chinese food. Luckily there was Sirichai hot sauce on the counter along with other 4 other condiments. Oddly one of the condiments was pickled jalapeno – usually in Thailand it would have been Thai hot pepper in vinegar or fish sauce. The Mission being so Latin I thought this was an interesting nod to the influence of the ‘hood.
It was amazing how hard these women worked. The room has 20 foot ceilings and is very narrow with maybe 12 seats and a constant flow of people.
There were like 5 or 6 samosa on the plate; I was so hungry I snarfed down most of them before I remembered to take a picture.
One of the beverage options is young coconut.
Leave it to the guy who owns a computer company in Silicon Valley to be on his iPhone while he eats his cold noodles. He was very sweet and made me think I need to go back and order me some cold noodles – they look delicious and he raved about them.
These stencil/paintings are from the outside of Yamo.
I drank water, had an appetizer that was so large it could have been dinner and a generous stir fry with chicken and lots of veg and a plentiful scoop of rice: the total bill was $8.50
I don’t think I made the best choices. The samosa had an unusual spice I couldn’t identify; otherwise they were just wonton wrappers filled with mashed potatoes (I think the potatoes may be twice cooked, roasted first before being stuffed into the wrappers and deep fried).
Yamo has many things to recommend it. Certainly it’s amazing to get such a large portion of freshly made food for only $8.50, but the buzz, crowd and space make this place special. You really do feel the love and see the labor these women put in to making your meal. They are have several veggie options.