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Thai Chef (Chinatown) -- A report, not a review.

Gary Soup | Oct 20, 200301:00 AM

Thai Chef, a Thai restaurant (duh), opened yesterday in the space vacated by the short-lived Happy Blossom HK Style Chinese Restaurant on Broadway (a couple of doors to the west of the Sam Wong Hotel). The three Soups went there for dinner tonight to check it out (and to give Mrs. Soup a break from cooking). We ordered an appetizer (fried fish cakes), a soup (Chicken Tom Yum), Pad Thai, Red Beef Curry, and a spicy mixed seafood something-or-other, plus steamed rice, a Singha Beer for me and a "young cocoanut" drink for the Souplet. The bite for all this was $46 and change, pre-tip.

In a nutshell, our reactions were:

Mrs. Soup -- "Strange flavors, I don't like it."
Souplet -- "Strange flavors, how delicious!"
Gary Soup -- "What do I know?"

I have to confess to very little experience with Thai food other than the lunch specials at Lalita Thai, so my descriptions must be viewed as purely subjective.

We all liked the fried fish cakes appetizer, even though they were made of the same chewy stuff as fishballs for soup -- how much fish is actually in them?

I alone liked the Tom Yum. Even the adventurous Souplet found the concentrated flavor a bit too "strange" to her liking for a soup; the only fault I could find with it was that the boneless chicken breast strips seemed too dry and woody.

We were all pretty much neutral on the Pad Thai. I had ordered it for didactical purposes, even though I'm not much of a Pad Thai fan (there's something un-noodley about the egg making the noodles stick together like that). Nonetheless, it was as good a Pad Thai as I've had in my limited experience.

The red curry beef, though tasty in an innocuous way, was a disappointment to me in that it was way underspiced. Next time I'll know to ask for more heat. The Souplet though it was just fine, and I've forgotten Mrs. Soup's reason for not liking it.

Finally, we all liked the spicy mixed seafood dish, whatever it was called.

Even if the food at this point is middling (and there were signs that they were still getting their act together) the place has a lot going for it. It's a bright, clean, "Now" kind of place with muted artwork on the wall, and the service was very good. Our young waitress was cheerful, informative, attentive and efficient to a fault. (And a fox, sayeth the old goat.) When we had finished our appetizer, I leaned back in my chair and happened to glance in her direction. I caught her eye, and she immediately literally ran toward the kitchen shouting "Ready for the Tom Yum!" or something like that in Thai.

Thai Chef is open until 2:00 AM (a valuable asset in that location) and has a beer and wine license. It was full by 7:00 PM with young Asians. Mrs. Soup and I were easily the oldest persons in the place, but that isn't saying much.

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