Chef Andy Ricker is getting back in the restaurant game. Sort of. After almost a decade of opening and closing restaurants from Los Angeles to New York — and, of course, the ultimate demise of his Pok Pok restaurant group in 2020 — the James Beard Award-winning chef will launch a new project in the Bay Area on Monday, September 25.
Ricker has partnered with Bay Area-based company Local Kitchens to launch a virtual restaurant called Tam Sang. The menu offers the same genre of Northern Thai cuisine that rocketed Ricker to national fame during the 2010s including dishes such as khao soi and crispy chicken wings. But because the restaurant will only be available through Local Kitchens locations, which the company describes as “micro food halls,” it’s primarily a takeout and delivery-only dining option. As of today, Tam Sang will be available via the company’s kitchens in Lafayette, Cupertino, Palo Alto, and Mill Valley. On-site dining is available at the Cupertino and Palo Alto locations.
At launch the menu includes a handful of Northern Thai-style dishes that’ll be made from recipes Ricker developed with the Local Kitchens team; more dishes will be added down the line, a press release promises. For now, the list includes khao soi kai, a Northern Thai-style curry noodle soup made with coconut broth, chicken, and roasted chile paste; red curry with sweet potatoes starring fried tofu, pearl onions, and Thai basil in spicy red coconut curry; and yam yai, a salad combining roasted chicken, boiled egg, cucumbers, carrots, onion, pickled garlic, scallions, fried tofu, and chopped peanuts in a “Sri-Rancha” dressing.
For Ricker’s fans, the menu includes Tam Sang Crispy Wings, which Local Kitchens is billing as “Thai-style chicken wings like those famously found at Pok Pok.” They’ll be served with crispy shallots and that Sri-Rancha dressing and a smoky sweet chili sauce for dipping.
For those who’ve followed the chef’s career, a virtual restaurant in the Bay Area makes reasonable sense. Though the chef’s expansion plans never reached Northern California, he has dabbled in the ghost kitchen game before: In 2020 he partnered with ghost kitchen company Reef to deliver Pok Pok’s famous chicken wings to Portland diners, though all the proceeds from that collaboration went to charity.
Seeing how Bay Area residents respond to the Pok Pok founder’s arrival will be interesting. San Francisco diners already have a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant to go to for khao soi and crispy chicken wings glazed in spicy fish sauce: Kin Khao from Thai chef Pim Techamuanvivit. Of course, Tam Sang’s reach will extend far beyond the city into more suburban communities in the East Bay, on the Peninsula, and in the North Bay. Plus, as Local Kitchens loves to tout, its outposts bring a roster of local and national restaurants under one roof, meaning diners can order Tam Sung wings along with a Square Pie Guys Detroit-style pizza, Milk Bar cookies, and a vegan burrito from Señor Sisig.
Tam Sang launches today, September 25 at select Local Kitchens locations. To order, visit the Local Kitchens website.
Clarification: September 25, 2023, 10:09 a.m. This article was updated to reflect that some Local Kitchens locations offer dine-in options.