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San Bruno Thai Temple Not Up To Berkeley's (Admittedly Not That High) Standard


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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area Thai Berkeley

San Bruno Thai Temple Not Up To Berkeley's (Admittedly Not That High) Standard

Mark P | | Sep 14, 2006 07:51 PM

Some friends and I headed to San Bruno's Thai Temple (Wat Mongkolratanaram) for its Sunday lunch. Aside from one curry and the kanon krok coconut dessert, we weren't happy with our meal. I definitely enjoy Berkeley's more (see [1] below for my opinion of Berkeley's). Still, it was a fun experience. The San Bruno temple is several factors smaller in terms of food selection and probably an order of magnitude smaller in terms of crowd size. This lead to a very casual atmosphere in which we could watch the food being made and chat with the cooks. The later, however, was difficult because most of them didn't speak English. (In contrast, the Berkeley Thai Temple gets so many non-Asians that everyone manning a counter speaks passable non-English, but it's so busy it's impossible to simply chat.)

We tried most of items they offered:

* Spring rolls (deep fried) with sweet and sour sauce. Perfectly fine.

* Papaya salad. We ordered medium spiciness and it was way too spicy for us. I have no problem eating a full meal of Sichuan food without any mild dishes to tone the spices down, but I couldn't finish my share of this dish. (I think they put in five peppers? Maybe get two next time?) I took the large amount of leftovers home and found I drank half a gallon of water while eating half a plate of papaya salad. Jeez. Anyway, it was neat watching them make the salad, crushing ingredients with a mortar and pestle, tossing it, tasting it, adding more ingredients, watching the other women come by and taste, then make oodles of corrections (adding more sugar, fish sauce, mixing it with some salad from her bowl, etc.). Although my experience at the Berkeley temple varies a bit, it's always been better than this.

* Pork salad. Didn't excite us. Mostly ground pork with tossed with green onions, red onions, parsley, and ample salt and pepper. Served at room temperature.

* A banana leaf filled with a salmon and cabbage casserole/quiche. Eating shredded salmon is somewhat weird. Most of us thought it was okay, though the one person that didn't grow up eating casserole really didn't like it.

* "Pumpkin" curry with chicken. Easily the best dish. A light and tasty yellow-ish curry sauce tossed with some form of squash -we debated what kind-.

* Beef curry. Perhaps because of some herb, one person not inaccurately described this as tasting "like dirt."

* Kanon krok. (Just like at the Berkeley temple.) These are effectively coconut pancakes the size of silver dollars. Made in a special machine, the outside gets a little crisp while the inside remains mushy. People enjoyed them, describing them as a little like a creme brulee, with an internal texture of rice pudding (without the kernels of rice).

The items we saw but didn't try were: some sort of dumplings (chive), sticky rice with mango, some sort of pancake that vaguely resembled green onion pancakes, a salmon curry, a mixed vegetable dish, and a whole fish. (I'm not sure the latter could be ordered or if it was just being prepped for something.)

Total was under ten dollars per person. We had leftovers of all but the pumpkin curry and kanon krok, though no one was excited by them.

Reviews from the last year on the San Bruno Thai Temple:

This report has been mirrored elsewhere on the web:

[1] My opinion of Berkeley's: "Only open for lunch on Sundays, the Thai Temple is a fun place to eat outdoors and watch other Berkeleyans. But I don't understand why the longest lines at this place are always for the trays with the curries and pad thai dishes. Frankly, those items are usually fairly poor: think of a restaurant that can cook average Thai food for one, then imagine it attempting the same thing in bulk. Definitely below average.

Instead, one should try the papaya salad (made when you order it). Spicy yet refreshing, it's the standard by which other papaya salads elsewhere must measure up. The fried chicken -no, it's not actually Thai- is also pretty darn good. And if they're cooking those tiny fried coconut pancake desserts, they're worth trying at least once. With these few special dishes and the setting, this place can squeak by with three stars (out of five)."