With Chef Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok blazing a trail coast to coast, and San Francisco restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit acquiring ever growing praise for her Kin Khao, Thai is just about the hottest cuisine around right now.
Now comes James Syhabout, Oakland’s only Michelin-starred chef, to add his stamp with Hawker Fare in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Syhabout’s original Hawker Fare has been going strong in Oakland, along with his more ambitious Commis. But this outpost, which opened about a month ago, is his first foray across the bridge.
When I asked him if he felt he was competing with the other celebrated Thai restaurants that have come to the forefront lately, he replied, “I’m competing with myself. I’m cooking a lot of dishes that I’ve never made before, based on things my family cooked in Thailand.”
Recently, I had a chance to taste some of those dishes when I was invited to a media dinner.
The restaurant is done up as if you were eating at a night market in Thailand. Walls are decorated with bright-colored floor mats tables covered with slick oil-cloths printed with flowers and fruit, and the ceiling strung with strands of lights. All that’s missing is the humidity and the torrent of scooters.