Bang San Thai on Jones is the definition of a hole in the wall. It’s cute and very very tiny, I’d say it can comfortably seat less than 20 people.
Steve and I went here with my dad the day after New Year’s. So this is the first Goldentooth foray of 2010! How exciting! Right? You’re hella excited, I know. Carrying on…
We were there pretty early, my dad is getting old and he likes to eat early, you know how old people are. Just kidding! Actually it was because my dad gave me a ride up from Ventura that day and we didn’t stop for snacks, so by the time we got to San Francisco our tummies were growlin’. Eating early is fine with me anyway, it meant that we were the only people in the restaurant.
One thing about these halal places, there’s no booze obviously. This is a demerit in the books of both Steve and my dad. I admit it’s a shame, because beer is the perfect cooling accompaniment to spicy Thai food, but this is the price you pay for (usually) a higher quality of ingredients. So a round of Thai iced teas was ordered, and they were good. The tea flavor was very strong, much more so than the average Thai iced tea you come upon.
Sorry, it’s tom yum gai again. Yes, I always order this, I can’t help it, I love this soup! This was a fine version, not too spicy and not too sweet, with lots of mushrooms and chicken bobbing in the murky red broth. It made my lips tingle, but not enough to stop slurping it down.
Next we had an exceptional seafood salad. I thought it was pretty excellent anyway. I think Steve was put off by the rareness of the seafood, but I thought it was cooked perfectly considering the freshness of the shellfish, especially the scallops which were unbelievably sweet and tender. I even enjoyed the mussels, which I’m usually not a fan of. The sauce was a bit gritty, which I found odd and off putting at first, but forgot about pretty quickly because the flavor was so nice.
I’ve mentioned before that my dad likes stuff spicy, so this, the pa nang curry with chicken, is the dish we ordered extra hot and spicy. I had a bit of stress picking out this dish, it went kind of like this; we want a curry! well, what kind? oh, I don’t know, whatever you like Mel. Now, this is bothersome enough to me in ordinary circumstances because I hate making decisions. However, when it comes to making decisions about curries, it’s even more trying to me, because I don’t generally care especially for Thai curries, and rarely order them, and therefore don’t know which kind of curry I like. I know yellow is the non-hot one, but do I prefer green to red? With coconut milk or without? I just don’t know! So I kind of randomly picked pa nang curry, a red curry with coconut milk, out of the list. And I ended up being terrified of it. As we were eating our soup and salad we heard the sizzle of raw food hitting a searing hot pan and soon the small dining room was filled with a steam or smoke and aroma that singed the nose and made the eyes water and caused me to cough. I was like, holy crap, they’re really making that stuff spicy. If the cooking fumes are effecting me like this, I don’t want to imagine what putting the actual food in my mouth will do to me. The dish arrived at the table and it looked like it was probably pretty spicy and I refused to try it until maybe the tenth time Steve told me it really wasn’t that bad (I can’t trust my dad, he would probably bite into a raw jalapeno and tell me it wasn’t spicy). And you know what? It really wasn’t. It was pretty unremarkable actually. Just another damn curry. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but there was nothing exciting about it either. And my dad was pretty bummed that they didn’t make it spicy for him. It was almost like they went out of their way to make it not spicy.
For our final dish we had trouble deciding whether to get the wide chow fun-esque noodles that my dad likes or the thai barbeque that we knew was a Bang San specialty, or to get both and have way way too much food. Luckily, the specials board made the decision for us.
The super kee mao was a perfect alternative, combining drunken noodles (the flat rice noodles with pepper and basil) and your choice of barbeque beef or lamb. We got lamb because that is Steve’s jam.
Mmm, that picture is making me salivate a little. This was the best dish we ordered. Perfectly cooked lamb, slightly charred, a little pink inside and easily yielding to the teeth topped wok fried gelatinous noodles that were just bursting with flavor, tangled up with slivers of peppers and green beans that hadn’t had all the crunch cooked out of them. It was served with this little dish of a very unusual sauce, kind of like a chimichurri with fish sauce. It was very salty but contrasted the sweet in the lamb and the noodles very nicely. Definitely an order again dish. My dad wanted me to get a close up of the noodles, so I did my best.
All in all, a kind of “eh” experience for me and my two favorite guys at Bang San. I enjoyed all the food well enough, though it was another Thai restaurant that simply could not live up to Lers Ros. My dad felt the same way I think. In fact, he told me after our meal that he didn’t like anything we ate. Then he retracted and said the Kee Mao was ok. And he liked his iced tea. I think probably he was peeved about the lack of spiciness in the Pa Nang, and I can’t blame him for that. It’s a problem in many restaurants that serve cuisines with spicy dishes. And it’s hard to blame the wait staff and the restauranteurs, to them my dad looks like any touristo who thinks they like spicy food because they put the fire sauce on their bean burrito (though I feel like people should be able to take one glance at my dad and his swarthy, cossack complexion and know he’s a guy who’s serious about his spicy food). Bang San is not my first choice for Thai food in the Tenderloin, but for sure it’d be in my top five. It has very good barbeque and lots of options for vegetarians and vegans, and, in my experience, are a reliable delivery provider.
Bang San Thai Cuisine Jones