55 Cyril Magnin (inside the Parc 55 Hotel)
San Francsico, CA 94102
If you have read or followed my blog for a while you may have noticed one big Southeast Asian cuisine missing in my reviews: Thai. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write about Thai, but two barriers have made it personally hard for me to write about it before now: 1) Unlike other cuisines I’ve written about, I don’t have really good first hand knowledge of the cuisine, either by the lack of growing up and being exposed to the cuisine from an early age or 2) the dearth of Thai restaurants that more closely match the authenticity in Thailand. I have known early on that the Thai cuisine we have in the United States has been widely adapted to fit American palates, similarly to Chinese and Indian restaurants. (see: obsession with fairly sweet versions of pad Thai).
Now, it’s not that I have had a sudden revelation of all the nuances of Thai cuisine. It is just a confluence of events that have made me ore comfortable in writing about it. First of all, I am slowly learning more and more about the cuisine beyond the Pad Thai context. Secondly, the opening of Kin Khao by well respected Thai chef Pim Techamuanvivit in San Francisco means that home-style Thai is a bit more accessible to me now. Thirdly, a cousin of mine who had visited Thailand beyond the touristy parts of Bangkok was coming town.
The third point led to a dinner at Kin Khao last week with my brother and another cousin. We came to the restaurant a little after 7PM on Tuesday and proceeded to order. We ended up requesting the $55 per person prix fixe menu as it had everything we possibly wanted to order, like the Papaya Salad and the pork belly. Here is how it turned out:
- Mushroom Hor Mok Terrine – The terrine had a nice, rich umami flavor and accompanied the very crisp rice cakes very well. Admittedly, I thought the rice cakes were a little too thick but the dish itself was very nice.
- Nam Tok Beans – These beans were cooked and seasoned very nicely. I loved the lettuce that they included to wrap the beans and cucumbers.
- Caramelized Pork Belly – The family favorite, they were marinated and cooked perfectly. The fat was very nice and helped make the pork very tender overall. It was so good we ordered another one!
- Som Tum Papaya Salad – Unlike other papaya salads I have had in Thai restaurants where the fish sauce is overpowering, this version was very well made. There was just a touch of chili, lime, and fish sauce to give a mildly spicy and sour flavor while still allowing the flavor of the papaya. My cousin loved it!
- Pad Kee Mao – This was probably the best version of the dish I’ve had. The rice noodles, ground pork, onions, bell peppers, herbs, and spices were stir fried very well but without a lot of grease. I do wish it was a little bit more spicy, but the deftness of the stir fry make this pretty good.
- Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy – These were stir fried very simply, but the crispness and lightness made it a nice palate cleanser to paired well with the heavier curry and pork belly.
- Massaman Nuea – The curry was very nice and reach, with tender beef cheeks that seemed to melt in my mouth.
- Blistered Chinese Long Beans – This dish was pretty good, with the similar deftness of the wok seen in other dishes. They tasted fairly similarly to how my mom would cook them, which is good in my book given that this is Chinese influenced dish.
- Black Rice Pudding – The pudding was pretty good, especially mixed in with the toasted rice and coconut cream. I also liked the caramel, but beware – just a little too much of it leaves the dessert to be a way too sweet mess.
Service was very pleasant as well, being attentive without being overbearing. If I were getting a cocktail, I would also recommend their Tom Yum (on the drink menu, not the entree menu) was was very refreshing and nice.
All in all, I loved my meal at Kin Khao. Overall it was definitely the best Thai restaurant I have been, and the quality of the food seems the reflect chef Pim’s skills as well as her passion for her home cuisine. We didn’t get the highly raved Khao Soi, but I’m sure to put that at the top of my list on my next visit.