Observations on Food in the Bay Area
On Valencia, between 19th and 20th streets in the Mission, this place is something out of a wacky, retro-modern tropical dream. Beyond the plain glass front are funky painted walls indirectly lit from below, and diffused by a layer of mesh sheeting. In the space between these odd edges are a mix of light wooden boothes and crazy, rounded metal and clear plastic chairs, all sharing space with the occasional plastic palm or other assorted tropical fronds. Once you've accepted the unusual atmosphere, however, you can easily enjoy the food.
First, they have a great and reasonably unique wine list, which is well suited to the spice and flavor of Thai food. Lots of light, fruity whites and middle-weight reds. We had a wonderful Husch Gewurztraminer of a crisp, fruity character with a smooth hint of sweetness. It blended well with everything from the grapefruit salad to the rich duck.
At a table for 6, we were able to share a nice selection of foods, as Thai food makes for wonderful family-style sharing. They also offer coconut rice as well as the usual white variety, which makes a pleasantly slightly sweet accompaniment to the food. Also only $24, which seemed a nice restaurant price (though BevMo sells it for $10, so I guess the markup is a bit excessive).
A wonderful salad that was a New Years special, consisting of chunks of grapefruit, lemongrass, some crisp rice noodles, and various and sundry other small bits of vegetable munchery (not exactly your typical leafy greens) that was really fantastic. I loved the bite of the lemongrass in contrast with the rest of the salad - a really unique flavor combination.
Coconut soup, with the usual infusion of mushrooms, bamboo, and other assorted typical Thai soup veggies. Absolutely fantastic, and with a quite pleasant hint of spiciness (we ordered everything 'medium' for the evening). It was smooth and warm, and not overly rich or sweet, and everything in it was of perfectly cooked consistency. The only downsides were that it took them a few minutes to remember to bring us a serving spoon, and when it arrived, it was comically small - not much more useful in portioning out the soup than the spoons provided for consuming it. But we managed our way past these initial difficulties.
Roast duck, with tasty dipping sauce. I have to admit, I've never been an enormous fan of duck, for the reason that duck often is accompanied by a large pile of fat, and this was no exception. It was quite rich, and very flavorful, but there was a lot of fat to scrape off prior to its consumption. I also felt the sauce was unnecessary, as the duck was already well-marinated.
Pumpkin curry, with beef. Astounding! Of course, I can hardly eat Thai without ordering a Thai curry, so one could argue that I'm biased, but most of the table though it was great, with one exception whose sole complaint was that it was overly spicy. Big chunks of tender meat, pumkins, bell peppers, and other tasty veggies. Very rich, and quite addictive.
Pad Thai. In the past, I've often been picky about Pad Thai, often because fish sauce still strikes me as a bit odd, but this was good Pad Thai. Really good. I could have eaten a lot more of it, except that I found myself rather frighteningly full by this point.
I finished off my meal with a glass of Thai iced tea, when I ran out of wine. Nothing terribly special, but certainly not bad by any means.
All in all, a quite filling meal for everyone, and at a reasonable cost - only about $25/person all told. We'll definately be back, and they're open until midnight as well. One last comment - we arrived about 8pm on a Saturday, and they were packed to the gills; even with a reservation we had to wait about 15 minutes. There wasn't really a line, but they do have a space heater outside to accomodate those waiting.