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Choosing the Best Thai Restaurant

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Bigger than small plates, more sought-after than comfort, what people wanted from cuisine this year was flavor. Pungency in all its forms won our interest and hard-earned dollars – from the garlic soup to exotic delacacies. Throw in cumin, ginger, juniper, lime, horseradish, mint, cinnamon, fennel, harissa, and pow!…you've got a taste of the tang that's redefining City dining. Here is a list of some San Francisco Thai restaurants that will satisfy that hunger for flavor.

Jitlada Thai Cuisine

1826 Buchanan St, (415) 292-9027

Jitlada is located in Japantown a little off the beaten path but once you eat here we think you will remember. Chef Pai learned to cook in her native Thailand at the age of 6 and brings her intense passion of cooking to everything she creates. This San Francisco Thai restaurant uses only the freshest of ingredients and strives to make your visit one to remember and return to. Chef Pai creates delicious Thai dishes that set Jitlada a part from the rest. Her love of cooking comes through in every dish and we feel you will be satisfied with your dining experience. The only thing that comes close is having your own Thai mother. Closed on Mondays and accept Visa and Master Card.

Ar Roi Thai Cuisine

643 Post, 771-5146

$$ With an Art Deco atmosphere and vibrant staff, this San Francisco Thai restaurant offers a flavor-packed dining experience in the bustling Union Square area. Specialties like fresh seafood and seasonal dishes join Thai favorites from spicy curries to the well-known Pad Thai and Tom Yom Goong.

Basil Restaurant and Bar

1175 Folsom St., 552-8999

$$$ Minimal, airy surroundings (California meets Bangkok) complement delicately flavored, complex recipes. Try the eggplant or the drunken tofu with basil Chile wine sauce at this San Francisco Thai restaurant.

BKK Thai Cuisine

1022 Bush, 441-8150

$ Casual and low-key dining. Specialties are the Pad Thai and a seafood combo steamed in coconut milk curry.

Manora's Thai Cuisine Restaurant

1600 Folsom St, (415) 861-6224

Filmy white curtains veil the happy diners at Manora's from the outside world. The tranquil space is on the elegant side of casual, with dark wood wainscoting, carved teak details and ornately framed Siamese prints. Even when full, the room feels quiet and spacious. The menu diverges from the usual peanut sauce and curry standards with fresh, interesting combinations of flavors--and all the dishes are a couple bucks cheaper than at comparable Thai places. Yum-ma-keur appetizer offers tender charbroiled eggplant with prawn, chicken and hard-boiled egg in lemon-garlic sauce; gang jurd soup's clear, mild broth allows the simple flavors of shrimp, spinach, napa cabbage and more to shine. A dish of sautéed Chinese broccoli and bits of salt cod in a perfectly assertive garlic sauce tastes both healthy and addictively savory. Pong-pang clay pot is a bargain and a treat, with tons of seafood and vegetables in a silky dark-red chili sauce.


Chai-Yo Thai Noodle

1400 Polk St., 771-2562

$ Chai-Yo features an array of homemade Thai noodle dishes, prepared by owner Sam Sangkhasup's mother-in-law…which is a good thing, trust us. A simple, quick and extremely affordable place to get great food, ordered fresh from the San Francisco Thai restaurant owner's Berkeley grocery store Chao Thai.

Just Thai

1532 Howard, 431-3113

$ A wonderfully inexpensive place for wide range of dishes. Specialties include spicy chicken; cashew chicken; spicy duck; snapper in fresh garlic and chili sauce; and sautéed prawns with pineapple.

Koh Samui and the Monkey

415 Brannan St., 369-0007

$-$$ Enjoy all the warmth of a Thai island in this new San Francisco Thai restaurant, featuring specialties such as crushed scallops served on a bed of baby bok choi, and a delicious pumpkin curry. Open daily until 10pm.

Lalita Distinctive Thai

96 McAllister, 552-5744

$$% Exotic, with some dining on cushions on the stage. Lalita's features a pool stocked with goldfish. Specialties include salmon hormok; chicken-stuffed salmon with coconut milk and red chile sauce steamed in banana leaves; garlic dancing prawns. Live music on special occasions.

Thai Spice

1730 Polk St., 775-4777

$$ A casual, affordable and very charming Thai restaurant with fast, friendly service and some of the best pad thai in town. Other selections include scallops on asparagus, scrumptious Thai Spice prawns, basil duck, and a spicy prawn yellow curry.

Ponzu  

401 Taylor St, Cross Street: O'Farrell Street, (877) 276-5662

Low-lit, loungy and self-consciously trendy, this downtown spot draws a disparate crowd of shoppers, theatergoers and tourists. Sprawl across worn velvet couches in the bar, or sit in the colorfully plush dining room. Hostesses with attitude thankfully give way to more gracious servers. An eclectic menu of Asian-influenced dishes features plates both small and large, all geared to be shared. Stick with the smaller plates for more polished tastes, such as the crunchy garlic-fried roti bread served with chunky fruit chutney. Steamed Shanghai lobster dumplings arrive moist, sweet and plump with lobster meat. Deep-fried dishes such as ponzu-chili calamari and Thai fried chicken with basil and bean sprouts are well-spiced, but suffer from a too-cold fryer, leaving them lacking the requisite crisp. Despite intriguing descriptions, desserts are not worth the splurge: Bread pudding is cold and clammy, and "gooey" chocolate cake is completely cooked through.


Thai Stick

698 Post St., 928-7730

$@ A relaxed setting, excellent service and an unhurried dining experience. Specialties at this San Francisco Thai restaurant are the homemade sauces and jumbo prawns with garlic sauce. All dishes are free of MSG. Open for late dining until 1:00 am every night.


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