55 Cyril Magnin, San Francisco, CA 94102 | 415.362.7456 | website
I was tickled pink when I heard that Pim Techamuanvivit was opening a Thai restaurant in the Parc 55 hotel in San Francisco. She is one of the OG food bloggers, a much celebrated and adored local food guru who has garnered great renown for her excellent website Chez Pim. Her stories, recipes, and photographs have been published in Food & Wine, the New York Times, Bon Appétit, she wrote the foodie handbook, and even makes award winning jams. Her restaurant Kin Khao serves the food she grew up with made with locally sourced, seasonal produce and sustainably raised or caught meats and seafood. Everything is fresh, organic and they make all the curry pastes, sauces, and relishes in-house daily and other staples like Nam Pla fish sauce and Kapi shrimp paste are sourced from the best of Thailand. You can really taste the difference! Here is Pim, taking a quiet moment. She was so gracious and friendly, walking around to check in with each table, introducing herself and shaking everyone’s hands.
I love that there is a blackboard diagram explaining the name. Kin = eat; Khao = rice. In Thailand, to eat is to eat rice. So, colloquially, “kin khao” means “to eat” or “let’s eat”
In the kitchen is Michael Gaines, Chef de Cuisine whose classical training in the top notch kitchens of Manresa, Gary Danko, In De Wulf, and Mirazur pairs keenly with Pim’s meticulous Thai cooking based on her old family recipes. Decorating the shelves are Sriraja Panich, the original Thai version of the popular Sriracha “rooster sauce” that is made in the USA that we all know and love. Underneath, there is a bookshelf filled mostly with cookbooks of local Asian chefs and Thai cookery.
Mr. K and I met our good friends Jaytee, Daisy and P, a Bangkok native who helped guide us through the menu. I love eating with these guys, our table was total chaos with all of the dishes we ordered, compared to the other tables which seemed to be served one orderly dish at a time. We ordered drinks, the cocktail menu includes a focused wine and beer list chosen to pair with the food designed by the Bon Vivants. I stuck with Thai beer, as I anticipated a need for a cold frosty beverage to combat the spicy food to come!
From the Bites section we began with Khao Tung Nag yTung ($8) a sweet & savory custard made from pork, shrimp, and peanuts topped with filaments of fragrant keffir lime leaf and cool aromatic coconut cream.
We loved the crispy rice cakes, an unusual vehicle to spoon the delectable custard onto. They had a delicious toasty flavor and were much fun to eat!
We ordered the other jarred appetizer on the menu, Mushroom Hor Mok Terrine ($10) which was a rich curry custard made with a mix of wild and cultivated mushrooms served with more of the addictive crisp rice cakes. This was spicier than the first.
Plah Pla Muek ($13) charred young octopus served with a tangy, spicy seafood sauce topped with peanuts and cilantro and some toasted rice. The octopus was tender and each bite was full of bright fresh textures and flavors.
I enjoyed the Saeng-wah Salad ($15), made with wild gulf prawn “ceviche” and crispy catfish salad, lemongrass, julienned shreds ofginger and keffir lime, and paper thin disks of fiery bird-eye chilli. The bottom layer of crispy catfish had a rich crunchy texture that soaked up the bright flavors of the dish.
I was smitten with the rich flavors of the Yum Kai Dao ($7), another salad mixed with chili jam dressing, peanuts, fried shallots, mint, cilantro, cucumber and topped with a fried duck egg.
We shared a couple orders of the Pretty Hot Wings ($7), meaty fried pinions infused with a nam pla fish sauce garlic marinade, tossed with a spicy tamarind, sriracha glaze. Pretty hot? Do you see the pieces of red? Those are birds-eye chili, one of the world’s hottest peppers rated at 50,000–100,000 Scoville heat units, just below the habanero. I’d say these are incendiarily hot if you happen to bite into one of those chilies, especially for people like me who find jalapeno peppers hot, so be careful! But don’t let me scare you, these wings are not to be missed, they are so flavorful and hurt so good!
The wings were followed with hot towels and fresh lemon wedges, a very nice touch!
Chili Jam Clams ($15) juicy little neck clams in Khun Hai’s Chilli Jam and aromatic Thai basil sauce. We began to wish for plain steamed rice to help temper the heat, but decided against as it would only fill us up…
One of my favorite dishes was Kua Kling Ribs ($15) spicy dry-fried pork riblets smothered in a wondrously flavorful Southern-style turmeric curry paste, made with chilies, galangal, and showers with filaments of fresh vibrant Kaffir lime leaves. This was another dish whose addictive spice level forces you to keep eating, challenging you to relax and let the flames of riotous heat open your tastebuds to expand your level of flavor consciousness.
Crab Sen Chan ($17) local Dungeness crab meat and rice noodles, stir fried together in a zingy Chantaburi sauce. It was mercifully not spicy, I loved the stretchy, chewy rice noodles stir-fried with crab meat infused with a deft and flavorful wok char.
The Massaman Nong Lai ($26) was the star of the meal. A gorgeous bone-in beef shank braised in Massamun curry paste, coconut milk, burnt shallots, potatoes. The menu reminds you to not forget to dig into the marrow! The meat is natural, locally sourced, antibiotic-free, and sustainable; the paste has 19 ingredients and each one is treated differently: Some are toasted, some are burned, some are fried, some are fresh, everything is done by hand, everything is ground for the day’s use. I read that it takes 2 days to make this dish, which I say you must order…
For dessert the Black Rice Pudding ($8) offers a soothing end to the fiery meal. The menu says that it is inspired by the Riz au Lait “grand-mere” Stephane Jego serves at his Parisien bistro Chez L’Ami Jean, this coconut black rice pudding is what we imagine he’d make if he had a Thai grandmother. Rich coconut and black rice pudding, served with burnt coconut sugar caramel, coconut cream, and a wonderful mixture of peanuts, puffed rice and sesame praline. Another dish that is a feast for the senses, full of rich textures and flavors.
Gorgeous! We wished we could have finished this off…
We really enjoyed the meal, it was the best Thai food we’ve encountered in a long time! Congratulations to Pim and crew, we’re so excited to have you introduce us to your incredibly flavorful interpretations of brilliantly prepared and authentic Thai food. A note, Kin Khao aims to be a late-night destination, offering the full menu until 11 p.m. and bar until 1 a.m.