Starry Kitchen – R.I.P. (at least at the California Plaza)

24 Oct


Downtown lunchers have had a rough twelve months, with the closure of Chimu (the best takeout window in the history of the world) and the plumbing-related death of the Spice Table’s lunch service. Starry Kitchen also ended it’s three year run in the California Plaza. Although they’ve since shuttered and moved to the Tiara Cafe as a long-term pop up, here’s a couple photos from the last few days of the old (but not oldest) Starry Kitchen.

If you were wondering, that is Nguyen, the front of the house half of the husband-wife team who run the place. You may not recognize him because he’s not in a banana suit.


This was a crispy tofu balls bahn mi with the fried rice upgrade. These tofu balls are what the SK empire was built on, mostly because Banana Man would wear signs with absurd invitations to eat them. The fried rice was OK, not awesome. It was a little under seasoned, which is kind of my experience with SK overall. It also could have been that they only use a reasonable amount of oil in cooking it, unlike the unreasonable amount that a real Chinese place would use to make it delicious.


The bahn mi itself was good. The tofu balls are pretty fun, although I would prefer more crisp and more salt. The roll is fine and the pickled veg was good. They put some aioli on top that gives it a fusiony taste that’s OK.

I hate to damn with faint praise, but I’ve never been effusive about SK’s food. I love the concept and attitude. The price point was good and it was a sorely needs shot in the arm to the downtown lunch scene. I don’t think the food is bad in any way, I just don’t love it. The menu describes the food as if it were a flavor bomb, but really I almost think they turn down the flavors to appeal to the suits working downtown.

Fine, it’s unfair to compare SK’s bahn mi to Spice Table’s platonic ideal. I’ll still miss having SK as an easy lunch option. And they handled their sudden closure with grace, still turning out quality food to the end. (I’m looking at you, Campanile!) We’ll see if the banana suit reappears.

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