Prior to it closed permanently in late February, just ahead of the coronavirus shutdown, Grocery Cafe was among the East Bay’s top Burmese restaurants– a homegrown success story that garnered national press from publications like Bon Appétit while cultivating cult-favorite status among locals for its unapologetically funky renditions of traditional meals like fermented tea leaf salad and mohinga.
Naturally, fans of the dining establishment were bereft when it shuttered– due to an illogical lease boost, owner William Lue informs Eater SF. Now Lue is back at it, this time in San Francisco’s Tenderloin area, with a brand-new, mostly Burmese restaurant called Herbal at 448 Larkin Street, an area Lue had actually previously operated as a personal dinner club.
Open for takeout and shipment since last week, the dining establishment includes many of Grocery Coffee shop’s trademarks: big portions of homey Burmese meals cost an incredibly affordable rate point– as little as $7 for a complete meal, with rice and sides. This time around, Lue has included a brand-new wrinkle too: A few of the meals at Herbal include dried hemp leaves that he sources from a grower in the Brentwood location.
Whether or not hemp cooking is legal is a difficult concern: Lue yields that he isn’t clear himself on whether there are regulations on restaurants using hemp leaves or hemp seeds as an ingredient. California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control rerouted Eater SF’s hemp query to the Department of Food and Farming’s commercial hemp program– whose representative suggested getting in touch with … the Department of Public Health.
Patrick Goggin, a senior lawyer with the San Francisco-based Hoban Law Group who has worked thoroughly on marijuana and commercial hemp reform, discusses that hemp has actually been legal in California because 2013 which most of existing policies have concentrated on hemp that’s processed in order to extract CBD oil. “The law hasn’t really spoken with the limits on their usage in their raw type– or even prepared form,” Goggin says. “Based on that, I would posit that those hemp leaves for cooking … is fully lawful.”
Consumers in the know might acquire betel nuts, understood throughout Asia for their narcotic (and carcinogenic) residential or commercial properties. Prior to and after the move, Lue himself was known to pull out an accordion to serenade the dining space whenever the spirit moved him.
According to Lue, it’s not uncommon for cooks in Myanmar to use hemp as an active ingredient, and he states they’re simply one part of Herbal’s general emphasis on herbs and spices– like turmeric and pickled tea leaves– much of which offer a series of purported health advantages. And he stresses that the hemp he’s utilizing is listed below the legal limit of 0.3 percent THC— consuming it isn’t going get anybody high, Lue states. “I’m not a vape shop,” he says. “I’m not a ‘marijuana dining establishment.'”
A great example, Lue says, is his much-vaunted tea leaf salad, which includes the typical mix of fermented tea leaves and assorted nuts and seeds, however with the addition of dried hemp leaves, which add an additional fragrant aspect. And for consumers who really desire to taste the hemp, he suggests a samusa and falafel combination.
Herbal’s menu— which, strangely, doesn’t really mention anything about hemp– likewise has plenty to appeal to customers who are simply looking for a hearty, inexpensive meal.
As an opening “pandemic time” promo, which Lue says he might extend until completion of the coronavirus crisis, the dining establishment is also using complimentary mohinga– the Burmese fish chowder– with every order.
As for Grocery Cafe, Lue states he was forced to close the dining establishment when its lease expired and his property manager was set to double the lease. Of course, the pandemic has actually moved the commercial realty market, and while absolutely nothing’s for particular, Lue states he’s checking out the possibility of bringing Grocery Cafe back– possibly even in the very same area– a couple of months down the road.
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