1243 9th Avenue, SF | 415.731.9999 | website
On a recent Thursday night, Mr. K and I met up with some of his coworkers to check out Nightlife at the Academy, where said Academy is transformed into a lively venue filled with music, provocative science, mingling, and cocktails, all for the over 21 set. This is a much more civilized way to enjoy the impressive exhibits and where you can actually relax and enjoy wandering around, once you get in that is. Plus, it’s half the price of going with all the kids. Afterwards, Justin and Jennifer who live in the neighborhood, suggested that we walk over to 9th Avenue to dine at the venerable Thai institution, Marnee Thai which had been recommended to me by one of my favorite food bloggers, Passionate Eater.
We agreed to split everything family style, and I tried not to monopolize the meal, but… when I saw Hot Cakes on the daily specials board, I insisted we had to order them. Kanom Krok is a luscious sweet and savory fritter that is one of Thailand’s most popular street foods. They were crispy on the outside with a soft molten interior stuffed with kernels of sweet corn, bits of green onion and drizzled with rich coconut milk .
I’m not sure what all is in there, but it’s good. Chez Pim claims they will be the ruin of her, and Kirk at mmm-yoso!!! believes there are lipless people who have sacrificed layers of skin in order to enjoy them at their molten hot best…
We also had the Corn Fritters ($7.50) which were big, crunchy and chewy pieces, each as big as the palm of your hand
This was served with a refreshing cucumber salad that drenched with the ubiquitous nam pla (fish sauce), mixed with palm sugar and lime juice. It’s a flavorful combination that goes so well with many Thai dishes.
I liked it so much I spooned it all over my fritter, which meant I had to gobble it up quickly before it got soggy..
At last I was able to experience the celebrated Spicy Angel Wings($7.50) deep-fried chicken wings sauteed with chili-garlic sauce, topped with crispy fried basil leaves. Mmmm, this is good. The wings have a crispy fried batter that is infused with the sticky sweet spicy sauce that clings to it like a fragrant caramel coating. It’s got a good spicy kick to it, spicier than the ones I usually get at nearbySan Tung.
Spicy Beef Salad Nam Tok ($7.95) is one of Mr. K’s favorites, so we tend to order this whenever we see it on the menu. Crisp greens topped with slices of beef with mint leaves, cilantro, onions, toasted rice powder in a spicy lime dressing. The plate was playfully decorated with dots of chili sauces and the toasted rice powder adds a gritty texture and nutty flavor that makes it a surround sound dish.
Red Curry with Roasted Duck ($10.95) was smooth and mild with coconut milk, bamboo shoots and topped with fragrant leaves of fresh thai basil. Buried in the bowl were chunks of pineapple, tomato and bell pepper. The most noticeable characteristic at Marnee Thai is that the dishes are not overly sweet… they are not very spicy either, but next time I will be more adventurous when ordering the spice level!
Gai Samoon Prai ($9.50), sauteed sliced chicken with onions and fresh herbs (lemongrass, wild ginger, peppercorns and Thai basils). This was very fragrant and flavorful and good spooned over the rice.
Basa Fillet ($12.50) pan-seared and topped with fresh garlic and black pepper sauce. This was amazing, the crisp savory topping sealed in the juices of the tender flaky flesh.
Our server recommended the Stir Fried Morning Glory with Garlic. I really loved the buttery texture of the leaves, which she said was also known as ong choy, kang kung or water spinach.
The rice was served in a shiney embossed metal container that was so pretty I took a picture of it. Mr. K’s friend Joe took an opportunity to flash some sort of hand signal in the background, also showing off the attractive hand stamp given at the Academy. Could that be a simple peace sign, or am I just showing my age?
The proprietor is known to come over to the tables to chat, sometimes reading faces or telling fortunes. She thought I was too serious and then guessed that I was the principal of a school… hmmm… well, I suppose she was having an off night! With the excitement of ordering, we forgot about the famous Pad Thai, which the chef has won many awards for, so that just means we have to come back and soon.