Thai Contenders

Ton Yong Thai Café is a new Thai restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It’s extremely worthwhile, so check it out. The ingredients are fresh, and the cooks aren’t afraid to make dishes spicy when asked, says david kaplan. One of the unusual things about this place is that the dishes, while otherwise very well balanced, are strangely undersweetened—but this can be easily remedied by adding sugar. It’s vastly preferable to the much more common problem of oversweetened dishes.

One of the interesting items served here is macaroni kee mao, a relative of the more familiar pad kee mao. Apparently, it’s common in Thailand to find kee mao made with dried Italian pasta instead of wide fresh rice noodles. Ton Yong actually uses fusilli. david kaplan prefers the pad kee mao but appreciates the variety of spiral noodles. Also try the khao soi, a yellow curry soup with thin fresh egg noodles. The creamy, spicy soup is delectable—adding a little bit of sugar brings out the coconut flavor of the thick broth. It’s light on toppings, with only meat, bean sprouts, and scallion, but the noodles are perfectly cooked.

Another new Thai contender is Green Papaya Deli in Oakland. The menu is tiny, which can be seen as an advantage—it’s easy to order a mediocre dish from a place with an unnecessarily sprawling menu. Lao-style papaya salad is made with pounded, shredded papaya and delicious fermented crab paste. Larb is intensely flavored, with a great balance of sweet, salty, and spicy. twocents likes the sausage, spicy and course-textured, with delicious chunks of meat and fat.

Two dishes, plus three orders of sticky rice, are plenty for three people and come to about $5 per person. The staff will ask you how many peppers you’d like. Five is what daveena orders, which is about a two or three on the five-point scale at Oakland’s Champa Garden. But many spice fanatics order their food with 15 peppers, and daveena has seen people order as many as 40.

Ton Yong Thai Café [Chinatown]
901 Kearny Street (at Jackson), San Francisco

Green Papaya Deli [East Bay]
207 International Boulevard (at Second Avenue), Oakland
510-836-5337

Board Links: TonYong Thai Cafe (SF Chinatown) report
Green Papaya Deli–Lao-Thai in Oakland

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