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Kin Khao, Authentic Modern Thai in Union Square

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[Photos: Patricia Chang]

Kin Khao is Thai for "eat rice," but it more colloquially translates to "let's eat"—which is what Thai-food lovers will exclaim when they sit down to a table at Pim Techamuanvivit's new restaurant in the Parc 55 Wyndham hotel. Though it's a little hard to find at first (it's actually in the back of the hotel, across the street from The Old Siam at Ellis and Mason), seekers will be rewarded with authentic food from the Thai-reared blogger and author, who's bringing her grandmother's and aunt's recipes to life in a bustling corner of Union Square. Local and handmade ingredients definitely set this spot apart from the rest of SF's Thai pack, especially with cocktails from The Bon Vivants (Trick Dog) in the mix.

While every aspect of the restaurant, from the menu to the space, bears Pim's imprimatur, she's not actually running the kitchen, leaving that task to chef de cuisine and Manresa alum Michael Gaines. Having trained and researched with her for over a year, Gaines and his team of cooks undergo the painstaking prep needed to produce entirely homemade curry paste, chili jam, and other key sauces, with spectacular results. The menu is full of compelling choices not often seen on other Thai restaurants' menus, like rabbit loin and meatballs in a rich green curry, housemade Thai sausage, and saeng-wah salad, a ceviche-like preparation of fresh shrimp and peppers on a bed of crispy ground catfish. Braised beef shank in Massaman curry, chicken-fat rice with consomme and chili sauce, and wok-charred Dungeness crab and rice noodles are other appealing options. Lunch will be a simpler affair, with more individually-sized portions of the food over rice; dinner is definitely meant for sharing.

The Bon Vivants, as drink consultants on the project, have developed a menu of easy-drinking cocktails that pair nicely with the rich, spicy complexity of the food. Some highlights are the Hua Hin Beach (dark rum, coconut cream, stout, lime, kaffir lime, salt), the Sao Thai (tequila, banana cordial, lime, cinnamon), and the Kafe Mao (mezcal, cassis, coffee, cream). Eight wines by the glass and two sakes are offered, along with another six wines and a sake by the bottle, and beer ranges from classic Singha lager to IPAs and witbiers. Non-drinkers can enjoy a housemade Thai iced tea or iced coffee, the latter made with Verve coffee; Song Tea also offers a sizable selection of hot teas to go with the black rice pudding and panna cotta with plum jam offered for dessert.

Here's the full beverage menu (click to blow it up):


The 75-seat space is clean and modern, with handmade wood tables from Woodshop, gray accents and Heath tiles, and a mixture of banquettes and chairs. A giant, dragon-like light hangs over the communal table, while a wall above the bar holds a phalanx of yellow pintos, a tiffin-like Thai lunch box. The plan is eventually for Kin Khao's kitchen and bar to be open straight through until 2 am, but for now, hours will be daily from 5:30-11 pm, with lunch debuting on Monday and running daily from 11:30 am-2 pm.

· Kin Khao [Official website]
· Pim Techamuanvivit Opening Union Square Thai Spot [~ ESF ~]

Kin Khao

55 Cyril Magnin Street, , CA 94102 (415) 362-7456 Visit Website