Let’s get this out of the way at the start: I’ve never visited Thailand. And with the exception of Chef Andy Ricker’s former trendy Ping restaurant in Portland, Ore., the Thai food I’ve experienced has been relegated to mom-and-pop places doing their best but not looking to pioneer in any way.
As such, I’m no Thai food expert by any means.
But all I know is that the Thai food at San Francisco’s new Kin Khao is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.
Kin Khao, which is a colloquialism for “let’s eat,” was opened a few months ago by first-time restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit.
If you’ve followed her long-time blog, Chez Pim, you know she’s a stickler when it comes to perfecting flavors and techniques.
She’s not behind the burners, herself. But the dishes are crafted from recipes she learned from her grandmother and aunts. Chef de Cuisine Michael Gaines, former sous chef of Michelin two-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, heads the kitchen and translates her vision onto the plates. And unless you’ve been asleep for a decade, you probably already know, too, that Techamuanvivit’s long-time companion is Manresa’s Chef-Owner David Kinch.
The 78-seat restaurant is housed in the Parc 55 hotel downtown. It can be a little hard to find, as it’s located on the second floor with minimal signage. The easiest route is to enter directly from the corner of Mason and Ellis. In any event, once you hit the lobby level, just follow the whiff of steamed jasmine rice to find it.
What makes the food at Kin Khao so different?
First, the concise menu is made up of dishes that you don’t often find at other Thai establishments in the Bay Area.
Second, a tight fist is exercised when it comes to sweetness. In fact, even the “Number One Brand” Thai iced tea ($5) was the least sweetened version I’ve ever tasted, allowing the slightly tannic and floral qualities of the tea to shine through more prominently.