SF: Have You Eaten at Kin Khao Yet?
On my last trip to San Francisco, I really wanted to try Kin Khao. The Thai restaurant is named after the phrase “kin khao” which literally translates to “eat rice” but really means, “let’s eat.” And that we did. We ordered over 10 dishes and dug in.
But first drinks! I ordered the Hua Hin Beach (comes with an umbrella) mainly because it comes with an umbrella but also because I like beer cocktails. The rum based drink was mixed with stout as well as coconut cream creating a creamy, tropical libation.
Hua Hin Beach (comes with an umbrella) – Pampero dark rum, coconut cream, lime, stout, salt, Kaffir lime, umbrella
Being a wings fiend, we had to get the pretty hot chicken wings. They are so named because of the sriracha glaze. I didn’t find them too spicy. I loved how plump they were.
When I suggested the hor mok, the mushroom dip served with rice cakes, my group looked at me funny. But it turned out to be one of the best dishes and we asked for extra rice cakes to scrap up every last bit of the dip. It was so good. The dip is a curried mousse of wild and cultivated mushrooms.
A friend who had been to Kin Khao before said we had to get the Monterey Bay squid. This would be my introduction to the seductive and tangy sauces Kin Khao uses on some of its food. It reminded me later of the chili jam dressing that was on top of the duck egg salad and eggplant. However, this sauce was seafood based. And the squid was exquisite. I love it when it’s tender and not too chewy.
We also got the other beer cocktail on the list. The Pak Pow is named after kites flown on the beach in Thailand. It definitely brings to mind a tropical vacation.
Pak Pow / Thai beach kite — IPA, Appleton Reserve Rum, allspice dram, palm sugar, lime, nutmeg
Kin Khao rotates through fresh seasonal veggies. We happened upon eggplant which I always order as I am hopeless at cooking eggplant myself. I really enjoyed the chili jam dressing.
The table went crazy for the carmelized pork belly. Eat this with rice!
My Thai friend ordered the fried duck eggs salad as well as the salted duck eggs. I liked the salad quite a bit as I loved the play of tart relish with the savory elements of shallots and fresh bursts of cilantro and mint. This dish also features the chili jam dressing that was on the eggplant. I dreamed about buying a jar to bring home.
If I see green beans on a menu, I will order them. I particular enjoy Asian-style stir-fries with green beans. These with XO sauce were so good. I was really sad I couldn’t eat more but happy to have the leftovers.
The pork bowl was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Served with flat rice noodles, the braised pork shoulder and pork belly soup also included a runny egg yolk in the broth as well as floating cubes of fried tofu.
I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect Hainan chicken and rice dish. I generally prefer the Thai style as it’s served with broth. I enjoyed Kin Khao’s very much. The chicken wasn’t as tender as LA’s Sticky Rice and the rice wasn’t as nicely oiled as Portland’s Khao Man Gai. But I feel that’s okay as those places are specialists in this dish. And of course no one tops Savoy’s sauce.
We also got the curry chicken noodles soup (khao soi gai) but I didn’t manage to get a picture of this dish. I was really full at this point but liked the broth.
Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and can see why it’s so popular. It’s very different from all the Thai spots people are used to eating. Not that I mind the occasional Penang curry but it’s nice to see a broader range of what people call “authentic” Thai food. I would like people to keep in mind those other Thai restaurants are serving what people have gotten used to ordering and naturally new restaurants want to serve popular dishes. Places like Kin Khao, Pok Pok in Portland or Night + Market (and Night + Market Song) in LA are special for alerting us there’s so much more to explore.