Makansutra: Food so good you'll be tongue Thai-ed
This Thai eatery in San Francisco deserves its Michelin star
I wanted to review this Thai restaurant not just because it has one Michelin star, but because I needed to know if the yardstick used for ranking a Thai eatery is the same around the world.
Chef Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao received the honour last year, and that drew stargrazing foodies to her little place in San Francisco, California.
I met her at the recent Worlds of Flavor conference held at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley where she was a presenter. Chef Pim was supported by the Thai government.
She is a stickler for authenticity, especially when it comes to herbs and spices.
"Many young Thais say I am selling old-fashioned food, but this is us," said Chef Pim.
"This is what I grew up with, and I sell what I am as it's part of my heritage."
Her cuisine is largely Chiang Mai-influenced with some Isan - an ethnic group in Thailand - flavours.
One of the items Chef Pim said I must not miss was the khao kan jin (above) (US$15, or S$21), leaf-wrapped steamed pork, glutinous rice and blood sausage served with garlic chips, onions, dried chilli, cilantro and lime.
It is similar to the ones sold in market stalls in Chiang Mai. I absolutely adored this.
The nam tok beans (US$14) was a vegetarian version of the larb moo. This is beans with mint, lime and a whole lot of Thai accents such as chillies and cilantro.
While the flavour was distinctly Thai, I would rather have some pork in there.
One dish that was not as Thai as I remembered was the Pretty Hot Wings (above) (US$12).
It was a good excuse to toss something well fried in a sharp and spicy Thai sauce made with tamarind, garlic, fish sauce and Sriracha sauce. It was hard to stop eating this so I forgive it for being one-note.
Between the two coconut curry noodles, the kanom jeen nam prik (above) (US$21) and the khao soi (US$18), my vote goes to the former.
The glutinous bee hoon sat very well with the rich white curry, topped with a soft-boiled egg, garlic chips, tempura leaves and chillies. The khao soi looked appealing but the crispy noodles and thick bee hoon did not feel as right.
Chef Pim was also proud of the khao mun gai (US$17), or Thai chicken rice. But if you prefer Hainanese chicken rice, you might want to give this one a miss.
55, Cyril Magnin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel: (415) 362-7456
Monday to Sunday 11.30am to 2pm (lunch), Sunday to Thursday 5.30pm to 10pm (dinner), Friday and Saturday 5.30pm to 11pm (dinner)
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.