Indonesia Restaurant

Another rainy night, and another dinner with Sarah, so Indonesia Restaurant was another choice of convenience, born out of the desire to stay as dry as possible.  I put on a dress and boots because I figured that was the best rain gear I could put together, boots would keep my feet dry and I wouldn’t have heavy jeans soaking up every drop of water.  It turned out to be a pretty good plan, except the under-skirt slip thingy rode up and made for an uncomfortable skulk to the bathroom to adjust myself, where I accidentally opened the door on somebody.  But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

Sarah had gone to Walgreens before we met and her bag had gotten really wet in the rain, so she asked the waiter who’d seated us for a plastic bag to carry it in, and he very nicely gave her one.  We talked about how the bag could be turned into an awesome tank top very easily, just a few quick cuts.  So look out for that next big fashion thing.

Sarah also thought I should document the hot-kid honey ball cookies she bought at Walgreens and the elegantly folded napkins at the restaurant, so here we are.

The menu is split into Indonesian and Thai sections.   I guess this used to be a solely Indonesian restaurant, but sometime in the recent past they became a Thai restaurant as well.  It’s my understanding that this space has been through many incarnations of Indonesian restaurants of some kind.  Anyway, we ordered mostly from the Indonesian side.  We started off with perkedel,

which was a soft beef and potato cake sort of thing.  It was not like anything I’ve had before, when we ordered it I was expecting something more like a dumpling, but this was like a fish cake or a dry meatball.  Not my favorite ever, but it wasn’t bad.  I probably wouldn’t be in a hurry to order it again though.

I ordered the veggie fried rice with anchovies.  It was pretty good, there were a lot of vegetables in it and not just frozen carrot cubes and peas, there were green beans and peppers and some sort of leafy green.  The anchovies were a tad too salty for me though. 

It looked really pretty though.  Indonesia was pretty big on presentation.

Sarah ordered some sort of coconut milk curry chicken soup.  I can’t remember what it was called, and I’m having trouble finding the menu we ordered from online.  Maybe they’ve changed things up again?  Anyway, I tried some of her soup and I liked it.  Usually I find coconut milk based soups too thick, they coat the inside of your mouth with an oily feeling, but this had the flavor of the milk, but the consistency of the broth was thin and pleasant, and there was a strong spice flavor.  I thought it was very good.

Finally we come to the most exciting thing about Indonesia Restaurant: dessert.

This chocolate roti is probably one of the most indulgent desserts ever.  I’ve had roti at Thai places before, but usually just plain or with a fruit sauce, never with chocolate.  This was so good, kind of like a chocolate croissant, but if you’d soaked the croissant in condensed milk.  Crazy, and again, very pretty.  This is the kind of thing I could eat until I made myself sick.  Is that oversharing? 

So I liked Indonesia Restaurant, it was a pleasant space with nice people and pretty tasty food.  I’m definitely intrigued enough to want to go back, there are so many dishes on the menu I’ve never tried before, and this meal was a good indication that if I do try them I’ll enjoy them.

Indonesia Restaurant

678 Post St

Their Yelp Page

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Bang San Thai Cuisine Jones

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

505 Jones

www.bangsanthai.com

Zen Yai Thai

The first thing I saw at Zen Yai Thai was this sign.

It got me pretty jazzed.  I got a good little charge out of that.  Yeah, it’s a hot hit, I’ll be puttin in my mix like a number one record.  So much promise!  It’s like, how could they possibly live up to the hype!  They totally couldn’t, that’s how.  Or, how not?  Anyway, the interior of Zen Yai is really nice.

Steve had this restaurant.com gift certificate thing, so we ordered more food than we otherwise might.  We started of with Tom Yum soup, because, duh, you should know by now, as well as an iced coffee for Steve and a Thai iced tea for me. 

The drinks were fine, pretty average.  The soup was my second favorite thing we ate. 

There was a good balance of sour and spicy, and nice big chunks of veggies and chicken. 

The best thing we got was the barbeque.

We got the pork spare ribs and they were super triple double dog delicious.  They were sweet and succulent, not flabby but with the rich flavor of pork fat throughout.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget why and get annoyed when people go ape shit over bacon and all that, but when you eat something like these ribs, it’s like, oh yeah, now I remember.  Pretty amazing stuff.  They come with a superfluous sweet and sour dipping sauce (they already have some sort of sweet glaze on them), a refreshing vinegary carrot salad and some perfectly cooked sticky rice, which is adorably wrapped up in a foil packet.  I would love to try their other barbeque items to see if they are equally good.  I know that they are equally (ridiculously) cheap at seven bucks.

The rest of the stuff we got, unfortunately, was pretty blah.  Green veggie curry with tofu

was bland and a little grainy.  It was nice of them to make it for us with fresh tofu, as they usually make it with fried tofu.  Although the soy stuff was silky and fresh, it couldn’t save the dish.  The spicy squid also fell flat

To start off, it wasn’t very spicy.  That wasn’t the real problem though, the real problem was the mushiness of the squid.  I like my squid to have a little tooth to it, a snap when you bite into it.  This squid seemed to just disintegrate into paste after the first chew.  Kinda gross.  It’s weird, because the combination of bamboo shoots, squid and chiles sounds like it would hit right in my sweet spot, but this just tasted kind of off.  What a disappointment. 

It’s a shame that we ordered the wrong stuff here.  If we’d just stuck to the soup and the barbeque, I think we would have been pleased as punch.  Like I mentioned before, the restaurant has a very nice, clean and modern dining space, and our waitress was pleasant and did a great job.  The prices are better than reasonable and at the peak lunch hour on a Saturday we had the place entirely to ourselves.  It’s possible that I’ll eat Zen Yai Thai again, since they deliver, but it’s pretty unlikely as long as Lers Ros is still open.  Damn you, Lers Ros!  You have ruined me for all other Thai restaurants. 

Zen Yai Thai

771 Ellis St

www.zenyaithai.com

Lers Ros Thai

I was pretty excited when my dad came to visit.  He had been reading about the new street food explosion going on here and was intrigued by both the food and the way the vendors were using the internet to reach their customer base.  Two things my dad really likes are food and “million dollar ideas.”  Unfortunately for him, twitter was pretty quiet the day he rolled into town; I couldn’t find anything about the carts being out that evening.  So, our main event being derailed, we had to come up with new dinner plans.  Steve and I have a running mental list of places that would be good to take my dad when he’s in town.  I started rattling some off, Magnolia, Laiola, Hard Knox…but without much enthusiasm because I knew if we were going to go too far from my house that my dad would want to drive, and I wasn’t really in the mood for all that hassle.  Dad gets a little aggro driving here, and parking is such a pain most of the time.  Then I had a flash of brilliance.  Lers Ros!  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought before to put Lers Ros on the list because my dad is really into Thai food.  One of his favorite places in Sacramento, where I grew up, is a super tiny hole in the wall Thai place.  I have a vivid memory of going there one summer in my late teens with my dad and a couple of his friends.  It was one of the hottest summers I’d ever lived and the restaurant had no air conditioning.  The guys ordered a bunch of super spicy food and proceeded to eat and sweat and sweat and sweat and sweat…it was pretty gross, but the food was awesome, better than most of the Thai you find in San Francisco. 

So I told dad about how I really liked Lers Ros (Steve and I had eaten there a couple times before) and how it was supposed to be the most authentic Thai food in San Francisco, and how you could get some real spicy stuff there.  He was excited.  He was also excited that our visit would count towards this blog, because he is very supportive of my endeavors (Thanks dad!).  Especially if he thinks there could be a way to monetize them, which is what most of our dinnertime discussion was about.

We kicked it off with a couple of Singhas.  Check out my dad’s gold bracelet, what a baller huh?  We looked over the extensive menu and my dad decided we should order more than the two of us could eat so we could try more dishes.  This is why it kind of sucks to go to a family style restaurant with only two people, unless you are dying for a bunch of leftovers you will probably be filled with regret over what you didn’t order.  I was still kind of regretful that we didn’t get anything off the specials menu:

No venison or alligator for us this time.  One day I’ll have to try it.  Still we ended up with some exciting dishes.  First was the #10, Garlic Quail ($7.95)

Crunchy, bone-filled and garlicky.  SOOOOOOO garlicky.  My favorite part of this dish was actually the deep fried garlic that was left after we devoured all of the quail.  The quail itself was delish too, and I really liked the dipping sauce, it was thick, kind of similar to ketchup, and very salty with a hint of heat, it tasted like it had been made from some sort of preserved vegetable.  I want to eat this as much as possible. 

Our soup came out next, the Tom Yum Koong, #28 ($7.95)

I thought I captured it in this picture but I guess I didn’t, but there was fire coming out of the top of this soup pot!  Very dramatic.  I wanted to order Tom Yum soup instead of the Tom Kha because I like the Tom Kha, but find the richness of the coconut milk based broth to be a little too much for me.  The thin broth of the Tom Yum suits me better.  I was a little surprised then to see the obvious milkiness of this Tom Yum, but though I could see it the flavor and texture of the broth didn’t reflect what I saw.  There was a hint of creaminess, but just a hint.

The flavor of the soup also ignored the presence of whole dried chiles, this soup was more sweet than spicy.  Though it did heat up later, I ate some of the leftover soup when I got home that night and I had to gargle with milk; I thought my lips were going to burn off.  But at the restaurant everything was mild.  The soup was populated with sweet fresh prawns and pale meaty mushrooms of a variety that I am unfamiliar with, but that I’d like to get to know better. 

When the #36, Kang Keaw Wan (green curry with Thai eggplant that we ordered with pork) arrived

I was wondering what the green seeded wedges were.  I thought they might be green tomatoes, the color and crunchiness were similar to that veggie, but the flavor not so much.  I was munching away when my dad mentioned that the eggplant were interesting.  Duh, those green wedges were the Thai eggplant!  I was expecting the purple skinned eggplant you usually see in curries in San Francisco, slimy and slick with oil.  That was why this was the dish we’d ordered that I was least looking forward to, I’m usually not a fan of Thai curries because they tend to be overpoweringly hot bowls of mush.  That was not the case here, there was a slight heat (for some reason nothing we got this trip was very spicy, though in past visits everything has been hot) but the flavor of the curry could still shine through, and, like the eggplant, all of the veggies retained a bit of their fresh bite. 

Our last dish was #79, Rad Nah

My dad had tried to order this dish super Thai hot, but I was pretty sure he wouldn’t get it that way.  I tried to explain to him that the menu description mentioned gravy sauce, and that didn’t, in my experience, mean spicy.  When the dish came out it was even more evident that we wouldn’t be burning our mouths on it.  The appearance of the dish was disconcerting to both of us, it looked like just a big plate of gloop.  I think it turned out being the favorite dish of the meal.  The gravy was rich and not too thick.  The pork was soft and sweet, almost melting in the mouth.  The gui long, or Chinese broccoli, a favorite vegetable of my dad’s, was crunchy and earthy and sweet.  The noodles were perfectly cooked, a little chewy, slippery and with a charred, smoky flavor.  A pretty perfect plate all in all. 

We left Lers Ros totally stuffed and completely content.  I have hardly been able to stop thinking about going back.  I like everything about it, I like the food, I like the space, I like the music they play,  I like the friendly waitresses, I like the young people who eat there.  Lers Ros is one of my favorite restaurants in the Tenderloin, and definitely my favorite Thai restaurant in San Francisco. 

Lers Ros

730 Larkin

http://lersros.com

They totally deliver!  How awesome is that?

Thai House Express

On Tuesday I was so so so excited to start on my “field research” for this blog.  It seemed the perfect day to start because I had plans to go to the pub quiz at the Edinburgh Castle, which is something I used to do every week a year or two ago but now is a pretty rare treat.  Going to the Castle quiz means picking up food to eat before the quiz starts (you have to go early to get a good table), and I have a number of regular take out spots, but I figured with this new venture I could pick a new spot.  Well, things don’t always work out the way you plan, and as Steve and I meandered down the hill to the bar at about a quarter to six, we realized we weren’t really hungry.  So we decided to postpone ordering dinner until after happy hour; I figured I’d get peckish after I had a few beers in me.  It turns out that (at least for me) this was an exceptionally bad plan, which is something I probably could have guessed as I have an unhappy history with drinking on an empty stomach.  The gist is that I ended up drunkenly calling in a pickup order to Thai House Express.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Thai House Express, it’s just that I’ve eaten there probably a dozen or more times, always taking the food out and eating it at the Edinburgh Castle.  Although it wasn’t the new exciting experience I’d been envisioning, it was still pretty satisfying.  I ordered one of my favorites, number 101, also known as Kao Rad Na Pak.  It’s sauteed tofu with vegetables in gravy and I know that sounds boring but even in my drunken state I was aware that Thai House Express does something special with this simple dish.  The straw mushrooms are huge and obviously fresh instead of canned, the baby carrots are super sweet and crunchy.  The gravy is light and not too sweet (at other Thai places gravies are often gloopy and sugary) and the rice (which you can opt out of if you are crazy) is so light and fluffy.  It’s good stuff.  Steve ordered the barbequed marinated chicken (gai yang, number 78) without rice so he basically just got a giant pile of chicken.  It smelled pretty good, but I didn’t try any of it.  Because I was drunk. Did I mention that?  I hope I’m not destroying my credibility.  The prices at THE are pretty reasonable, I’d call them average for a Thai restaurant in San Francisco.  The people who work there are super nice and the food is fresh and good.  It looks like a nice place to eat in, which I hope I’ll do someday because I’d like to try their soups.  Soup is my favorite food and Thai soups are my favorite soups, but soup is awkward to take out and eat at a bar.  I would warn you though that if you eat in and you decide during your meal to look out the window you will probably see homeless people.  Probably lots of homeless people.  THE is right on the corner of Larkin and Geary and a lot of people of the unsavory variety have made that corner their home away from home.  I would say the scary factor at THE is pretty low, it’s on the edge of the TL so there are still lots of normals around.  The vagrants are there, but they save the scary stuff for a few blocks to the southeast. 

So, to sum up; very good food, not scary location, reasonable prices.

 

Thai House Express

901 Larkin St

www.thhexpress.com