I had asked for your ideas for an early, budget but celebratory dinner close to Moscone Center...
really appreciated all of the replies. I particularly wanted to try Mochica, especially since many of you want to see it get support. However) (and I do feel a bit guilty about this), despite your great other suggestions we ended up at Cha Am after all. Bottom line: it was my daughter's bon voyage party, and she loves and wanted Thai. Cha Am it was.
So, hubby, myself, daughter, niece and grandparents all descended on Cha Am from different directions. Hubby was first to arrive, and enjoyed a quiet martini at the small bar (yes, moderately to lower end priced restaurants in San Francisco can have full bars: just not in Bernal Heights apparently).
The atmosphere is very pleasant: modern yet calm, and conversation was very easy. all in all, we were pleased with the meal. The food isn't outstanding, but then, I haven't found much outstanding Thai in the bay area. It was also a pleasure to see my niece, who claimed never to have eated Thai food (!) and was very apprehensive, gamely try most everything put in front of her, including calamari. She actually asked for seconds of a few items, so maybe we can make her a hound yet!
Dishes we tried included:
papaya salad: ok, had a fairly decent kick.
red curry chicken: rather ordinary.
sauteed vegetables with basil calamari and seafood: vegetables were tasty, just the rings of the calamari, unfortunately.
tamarind duck: a favorite all around the table, spicy and fruity both (but not too sweet),with lovely duck juices...
pad thai: not too exciting, but I was fairly sure my niece would eat it (and she did :-))
grilled seafood(from the specials menu): this was delicious, grilled prawns and day boat scallops served with a spicy dipping sauce: all of the seafood was cooked perfectly. It was accompanied with grilled asparagus, also cooked perfectly. yum!
I think there may have been at least one other dish, but I can't remember it, so guess it was also unexciting. Portions were generous.
For dessert we shared one mango with sticky rice, that was decent, and fried bananas with ice cream. I don't eat bananas so can't comment, but the girls polished it off pretty quickly.
My father ended up picking up the bill (guess we could have gone to Le Charm :-)) but it was about $170 for six persons includingg tax, tip, and two (decent, unexciting) bottles of wine and a thai ice tea. Service was efficient, friendly and unobtrusive.
If I were looking for a quiet dinner near Moscone, I'd consider heading back, and would concentrate on grilled seafood...