If you told us seven months ago that we’d be eating most of this year’s meals out of disposable boxes, we’d have been pretty confused. But because of, well, literally everything, we’re eating more takeout than ever, especially from some fantastic new restaurants that have opened - and adapted - since March. Herbal, a new Burmese restaurant in the Tenderloin, is one of them.
Herbal is a new spot from William Lue, owner of Oakland’s beloved, since-closed Burmese restaurant, Grocery Cafe. They opened in June, and are serving some of the best curries and stews we’ve had recently. The menu at Herbal isn’t as extensive as Grocery Cafe’s, but includes some familiar standbys, like mango chutney pork stew and a nutty tea leaf salad, as well as new dishes, like hemp falafel and steak and brisket curry. But Herbal’s big draw is that everything is delicious, super shareable, and pretty affordable - each entree only costs around $12. So order one dish or everything on the menu (a move we strongly endorse) - and don’t be surprised if you schedule a recurring “order takeout from Herbal” reminder on your calendar before you’re even done eating.
What you should also know about Herbal is that they’re serving up one of the best meal deals in the city - the Blue Plate Special. For just $2.95, you get a small container of coconut noodle soup, and a sweet sticky rice dessert. To get one, you have to order in person or by phone (it’s not available online).
While we can’t wait for the day we can sit down and enjoy their excellent food from their dining room, until then, we’ll take Herbal in whatever form we can get. And since we’ll likely be eating even more takeout the rest of the year, their number will stay on speed dial.
Grocery Cafe regulars will remember this dish well. Chunks of pork are simmered in a saucy, slightly sweet mango chutney until soft. If you only get one thing, it should definitely be this.
The fermented tea leaves in this salad are balanced nicely with crunchy cabbage and toasted seeds and nuts. And, staying true to its name, Herbal’s version also adds in dried hemp leaves. If you’re not into hemp’s slightly earthy taste, you can ask for the tea leaf salad without it.
The rich curry and tender pieces of chicken make this dish last-meal worthy - or, at the very least, last-bite-of-the-meal worthy. It’s easily one of our favorite things on the menu.
You’ll want to take a few moments to bask in the glory of this fall-off-the-bone braised lamb leg doused in red curry. It’s as beautiful as it is massive. This dish is perfect to share between two.
Like we said, the Blue Plate Special is an excellent deal ($2.95) - plus, it’s vegetarian, and plus, it’s really good. The coconut noodle soup is made with vegetable broth that’s heavy on the turmeric. But we’d honestly order the special just for the dessert alone - it’s a sweet, bite-sized ball of sticky rice stuffed with coconut, mixed nuts, and brown palm sugar, then wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf.