Nari in Japantown SF

Nari is a new high end Thai restaurant located in Japantown in San Francisco. It’s been open about a month. The owner is Pim Techamuanvivit. Pim is quite a busy restauranteur these days, she also started and runs the successful Kin Khao in the financial district and is now in charge of the well regarded Nahm restaurant in Bangkok.

We ate dinner here a few weeks ago. Pim was there and we had a chance to talk with her again. She is a passionate and consummate food artist and very nice. Overall we had a great meal. It’s been quite a while since we have been to Kin Khao so it was difficult to compare the two. Here is what we ate:

Fried bites of Northern Thai head cheese. Sort of like a croquet. It was good but not the highlight of the meal.

Crispy sweetbreads done in the chicken wing style of sister restaurant Kin Khao. Very good.

Squid and pork jowl. This was one of the most delicious things we have eaten all year. The unctuous pork and tender squid paired magically with the vibrant Thai flavors.

Namprik ong. Namprik ong is a dip made with pork popular in Northern Thailand. It is typically served as a condiment for dipping rice and veggies into. The version here was made with early girl tomatoes and was served with a wide array of veggies and herbs to dip. We also ordered a side of sticky rice for dipping. It was excellent.

Mussel curry. A debut item on the menu. This dish put every other mussel curry I have had to shame. Not as soupy as some mussel curries it was redolent with satisfying and warming Thai curry flavors. This tied with the squid and pork for our favorite dish.

For dessert we ordered the dreaming of Lod Chong. Salted caramel, padam ice cream, ice for texture and salt. This was a dessert of contrasting flavors and textures: the crunchiness of the ice contrasted with the creaminess of the ice cream and the bold saltiness of the caramel contrasted with the sweetness of the ice cream. The pandam flavor was warm and satisfying. All in all it added up to a sum of more than its parts. A very elevated and deeply satisfying dessert and an excellent way to end the evening.

Corkage is $40 (ouch!). We brought a bottle of wine but saved it and instead had cocktails which were good and a couple of glasses of wine.


A couple of meals from Nari, from about a year apart. I kept forgetting writing about my meal there from November 2019, even though I thought that meal easily qualified Nari to be the best Thai restaurant in the Bay Area.

Miang- which according to the menu: persimmon, trout roe, pomegranate, makrut lime and sea sauce tamarind caramel served on betel leaves. Its a combination of savory, sweet, tart and yum.

Squid and pork jowl. Just like @geo12the said, its delicious.

Don’t remember what this was called in Thai, but its charred lettuce. Probably the priciest lettuce I’ve eaten but it had plenty of wok hay and its yummy.

Gaeng rawaeng- I was debating before ordering if we should even consider spending $47 on a cornish game hen. But it was my favorite item of the meal. The chicken was VERY tender, juicy and succulent, and the tumeric- rawaeng curry paired perfectly with the game hen. Came with a piece of roti. I asked how they managed to keep the chicken that tender and the answer was they sous vided the chicken first before finishing. And it avoided the mushy sous vide meat syndrome. Highly recommended.

Unlimited refill of rice. That and the chicken easily fed four.

The reason I thought Nari was the best Thai restaurant in the Bay Area because it reminded me of Aaharn, a Thai restaurant in Hong Kong David Thompson had a hand in. Both very refined in the cooking techniques, both melding flavors in nuanced, subtle ways that was rarely found in the Bay Area.

Last month’s meal was from late December. Nari now have two set menus when they are open- a meat option and a vegetarian option. I got the $43pp meat option that evening for with a two person minimum. For the most part I forgot about my 2019 meal already other than the game hen, but was happy to see the game hen as a choice.

The spread:

The game hen was substantially less successful this time. I don’t know if it was because of the takeout box, but the game hen was a bit dry and overcooked. Its still pretty good, but it went from very good last year to nice this year.

Squid and pork jowl again. The best item of the meal.

Squash with XO sauce. I thought it was fine. The XO sauce was perfectly fine. But I didn’t get a Nari meal to eat XO sauce when I could have eaten it in a Cantonese joint. It came with the meal.

Tom kha- coconut based soup with maitake mushroom. By itself its a nice soup. As part of the set menu with the game hen curry, I thought the coconut flavor duplicated. There was no contrast between the soup and the curry.

Does anyone know what the heart shaped leaf in the soup was?

Curry puff was an addon, and actually outshined everything else except the pork jowl.

I forgot what the dessert was but its some sort of chocolate bar with grains including rice. It was fine.

I also got a jar of chlii jam and a jar of the makmaad relish. The makmaad relish is delicious. Best described as a thai equivalent of XO sauce since we just had the XO sauce. Haven’t opened the chili jam yet.

So overall, a pretty nice meal with quite a bit of inconsistencies, cooked at a level which I would describe as a good, but pricey, neighborhood Thai restaurant rather than the best in the Bay Area. I was really looking forward to the meal. But that chicken got outmatched by the succulent el- cheapo chicken sticks from Cambodian Street Kitchen a few days later. Which was a heresy given the price. So that was a bit of a bummer.


Lower half of a Kaffir Lime Leaf

Thanks! The little notch on the leaf threw me off. I thought its a leaf with a different shape than kaffir.


Glad to help. Sometimes the lower Section of the Leaf is more deeply “scalloped?”. That Photo is not a great Example.

After enjoying Michelin one star restaurant Kin Khao with its focus on Thai cuisine quite a lot we also wanted to try out their sister restaurant Nari . Also located in a hotel, it has a much more relaxed and “sophisticated” ambience (which we enjoyed so much that we even forgot to take pictures of two of the courses) and the same level of high execution for their broad range of Thai dishes which go far beyond your standard neighborhood Thai restaurant. Perhaps the only two small complains would be their strange use of “crushed” ice in their desserts which gives them an unfavorable texture and that some of their dishes didn’t get any description when brought to the table.
Overall both restaurants from Pim Techamuanvivit are great places to explore Thai cuisine with perhaps Nari having the slightly “better package” and the chance to pick a tasting menu style format.

Amuse Bouche - Pork, apple

Duck confit croquette, curry sauce, pickled radish

Yum tawai - salad of charred asparagus, tart fruits & herbs in a curried peanut dressing with sesame seeds

Yum sum-o - Citrus salad in a fish sauce + lime dressing topped with herbs, chili and peanuts

Gaeng bumbai aubergine - crispy eggplant in spicy bumbai curry with basil & crispy shallots


Caramalized fish sauce cabbage - Wok-tossed cabbage in fish sauce & garlic

Squid & pork jowl - grilled Monterey squid in chili-lime dressing with sweet &succulent pork jowl topped with peanuts & cilantro, served with sticky rice (no picture taken)

Namtok moo - grilled pork chop, slathered in nam jim jaew sauce, topped with herbs & toasted rice, served with sticky rice & lettuce to wrap (no picture taken)

Prik king gai - Crispy chicken stir-fried in a sweet & spicy curry paste with polenta beans, dried shrimps, makrut, salted duck egg

Wan yen - Kiwi & kumquat, tapioca pearls & jellies in salted coconut cream under crushed icd

Dreaming of lod chong - pandan parfait, salted coconut cream, ice