The Story: Pioneering food blogger Chez Pim aka Pim Techamuanvivit wanted to bring the food of her birthplace to her adopted home of the San Francisco Bay Area, opening the ambitious Kin Khao Thai Eatery in the Parc 55 Hotel in the city’s touristy Union Square.
Why I went: Apparently, I’m the last blogger to visit and rave about this contemporary yet traditional homage to real Thai food, emphasizing freshness and balanced flavors. I recruited another blogger who had yet to eat here (Christine of East Bay Dish) and together we dined on a recent weeknight.
The vibe: Hip, modern and sleek, the decor is chic but warm, with little details giving hint of Bangkok or Techamuanvivit’s love for travel. A large bar and large communal table feed into the name of the restaurant, which is a Thai saying for “let’s eat” (but literal translates to “eat rice”).
The booze: Probably the most sophisticated bar menu for any Thai restaurant in the area, the cocktail program is inspired by Thai dishes, such as the Tom Yum that I ordered. It’s not the traditional Thai soup dish as noted on the menu, but Tanqueray Gin with vermouth, lime, galangal, lemongrass, and abbots bitters. While creative on paper, the drinks don’t taste much different than what you can get at almost any fancy bar in Union Square.
The menu: While Techamuanvivit provided the vision, the execution of the dishes is spearheaded by Chef Michael Gaines, who once cooked at Manresa. (No surprise since Techamuanvivit’s significant other is Manresa chef David Kinch.) The young menu has already gotten some signature dishes, such as the braised beef cheek curry and the fire-hot dry-fried pork riblets. Some dishes change to take advantage of seasonal ingredients, and the variety provided a pleasing alternative to the pages of curries, stir-fries, and noodles typically found at most other Thai restaurants.
My favorite dish: A new item on the menu was also my favorite of the night. No surprise that it was the caramelized pork belly, sweet and savory, perfectly cooked and served in a claypot. Reminiscent of Vietnamese cuisine, it was a satisfying starter dish for $13.
Insider tip: The restaurant’s address can throw you off since it’s the address for the Parc 55 hotel. But you can easily walk right into the restaurant by going to the corner of Mason and Ellis Streets.
The last bite: I had never been a Thai food fan, mostly because many of the dishes I ate at local restaurants had too much sauce or watery curries. Kin Khao lives up to its promise of providing quality Thai food with a variety to open one’s eyes to what Thai food can be.
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Kin Khao Thai Eatery, 55 Cyril Magnin, San Francisco. PH: 415.362.7456. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations and major credit cards accepted. kinkhao.com
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