Pak Nam Thai -- new Southern Thai in the TL [San Francisco]

Here I go again. I hate being a “Has anybody tried?” guy since I like to do my own scouting, but I’m still homebound, recuperating from hip replacement surgery, so point man is about the best I can do.

Pak Nam Thai opened a couple of weeks ago in the old Pagolac space at 655 Larkin. The owner is from Southern Thailand (south of BKK, in fact) Initial Yelp reviews (by seemingly knowledgeable reviewers) are generally ecstatic, and most point out that serious spice heat levels are used by default.

Pak Nam’s entire menu is posted on the resto’s Facebook page, and the boat noodles are beckoning me!


Thanks for pointing that out. I wouldn’t have caught on otherwise. And as someone who is supposed to have hip replacement at some point, just wanted to say quick healing to you!

Well, they tell me scheduled hip replacements go more smoothly than those occasioned by a fracture (like mine), if that’s any consolation.

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Thanks for the heads up on this restaurant. I’ve eaten here a few times.

Dishes I liked:
Tom Yum Kar Moo - “traditional hot and sour stew pork leg soup with Thai herbs, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves”
Hadn’t had this before. Not really a pork leg in the soup, more of a pork hock or knuckle. Not much in the way of meat, it was much more gelatinous skin, fat, and tendons. Very flavorful soup - spicy hot, garlicky and had a lot of zing. Could taste this the next day. I liked this but be warned it’s mostly tendon, fat and skin.

Kao Klook Ka-Pi - “homemade shrimp paste with garlic mixed with rice served with sausage, sweet pork, scrambled egg, dried shrimp. lime, and onions"
Kind of like a deconstructed shrimp paste fried rice. Pretty to look at. Sausage was like Chinese lap cheong. Some chopped up chili peppers in the sweet pork gave it a bit of spice, but not really spicy.

Thai Boat Noodle Soup
I got this with the thin rice noodles and pork. Came with tender pork chunks, fish balls, green vegetable (morning glory?) and bean sprouts. Unlike other places there weren’t any pork cracklings in the bowl. Don’t remember there being any liver either. Pork was not overcooked and quite tender. Broth was good, soaked up well in the thin noodles and was a bit on the sweet side. Good dish but I think I like the versions at Zen Yai and Kyu3 nearby better.

Kai Look Koey - “fried boiled eggs with Thai sweet sauce”
Son in law eggs. This tasted like what it was - deep fried hard boiled eggs with a sweet tamarind sauce.

Did not like:
Pla Muk Nuang Ma Now - “steamed whole squid topped with chili, garlic and cilantro in spicy lemon sauce”
Huge squid. The squid unfortunately was pretty tough but edible. Ended up only eating the tentacles and a bit of the body though as it was way too chewy.


Tom Yum Kar Moo

Kao Klook Ka-Pi

Thai Boat Noodle Soup

Kai Look Koey

Pla Muk Nuang Ma Now

I saw your description so I got this today- I liked this very much as well. Not sure how long they cooked the hock in the soup but I let the soup cool down to room temperature, it became a jelly. Gelatinous goodness. Even the mild version I was given was plenty hot. Interestingly the components in mine looked different from yours already:

I got the Kao Lao Nam Tok. Beef with thin rice noodle. It looked like the boat noodle, the receipt says boat noodle (even though the price is for the Kao Lao Nam Tok). So I am a bit confused the supposed difference between the boat noodle and the kao lao nam tok. how did your broth taste like? Mine was quite sweet.

Lastly Kra Pao Moo Krob. This one was ordered upon recommendation from the waitress, who said its very popular. Fried pork belly, red bell pepper in a sweet basil sauce with rice.

Overall, the cooking tasted very clean and nicely done. I’d love to go back and try their other stuff, perhaps more ‘savory’ vs sweet stuff.

You pose an interesting question about “Kao Lao Nam Tok.”. I believe “nam tok” means that the broth is thickened with blood (which is also common with Boat Noodles). Perhaps “Kao Lao Nam Tok” is just to distinguish the beef version of Boat Noodles from the pork verssion. Is there much difference in price?

I think boat noodle is $7.95 on the menu whiel the Kao Lao Nam Tok is $8.5. So its not much difference in price. I brought up the price just to note that they got the order into the system at the right price for the nam tok. The menu offers the boat noodle for both pork and beef for $7.95 and the nam tok for both pork and beef for $8.5. The menu suggests that nam tok has beef/ pork balls, while no mention of that for boat noodle.

Looks like they have weekend special. from their FB page:
Kai phalo moo saam chan- Original thai style fragrant eggs and pork belly in five -spice stew soup.

The broth in the boat noodles I had was definitely on the sweet side as well.

Had a nice meal (well, really just one dish) at the newly opened Pak Nam, 655 Larkin Street. The location is of the previous Pagolac, where I had a bad dinner about a year ago, so good riddance.
The dish was one of the more expensive ones: Tom Yum Kar Moo Akagi, $10 (under the Chef’s Recommendation section). It was a festival of pork bones, pork skin, tendon, and marrow. The broth was thick with gelatin (there was a burner under the pot to keep it hot). Lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, and a copious amount of garlic flavored a tart and not-too-spicy broth. I may have asked for “not too spicy”. I savored every drop and sucked the bones clean. It was an early dinner (I was first in the door when they opened at 5 PM, and there were only two other diners when I left). After dinner I stopped in at Lee’s Sandwiches for their (unlabeled) Vietnamese yogurt ($2.50) which I think they make with condensed milk; rich and tart.
I’ll see my cardiologist soon.

Based on this post, went here a couple of times the past few weeks. On one visit had the Nam Tok; I asked the waitress what the difference was compared to Boat Noodle and she said that Boat Noodle had Basil in it and the Nam Tok did not. Also, when we ordered Nam Tok she said it was not served with noodles. On that visit we ordered and enjoyed the Nam Tok; on another visit I ordered the boat noodles and can confirm that the primary difference here was the addition of fresh Basil to the soup, which does affect the overall flavor; and the lack of noodles in the Nam Tok. I thought both were among the best I’ve had in the area and in particular the beef slices and the meatballs present in both were high quality- higher than most places I go to and you could really taste it in the meat itself. I think I like Zen Yai a little better in terms of flavor but this would be a close second. I did miss the presence of liver and tripe though. I didn’t think this version of boat noodle/nam tok was particularly sweet. In my experience versions that lack any sugar in the default seasoning are unusual, and many are pretty sweet. I eat this dish extensively in LA Thai Town and wherever I can find it. In my one visit to Thailand I ate 5 bowls of boat noodles (one of which called itself nam tok and included noodles) at 5 different establishments and can say that my favorite California bowls of this dish fell squarely in the range defined by that short experience.

Meat quality showed up again in the Beef Jerky and Pork Jerky appetizers served here. They had also a very nice “jaew” dipping sauce, a thin style emphasizing lime, roasted pepper flakes and scallion. Portions of these were a little smaller than I am used to.

Tom yum noodle was the best I’ve had in recent memory with a full bodied broth and good quality ground pork, pork ball and fish cake.

Kao man gai as takeout was pretty good. The rice had a good ginger fragrance and the bean/garlic sauce for the chicken was good. The chicken was decent. I prefer versions of this dish that are a little more agressively seasoned in the rice in terms of salt, chicken broth and some other spices- such that eating the rice alone is a pleasure. This didn’t quite reach that level but was closer than most.

Overall the execution and presentation of these dishes was quite nice and the quality of the food was higher than I expected for the neighborhood and price point. It’s quite a nice little space. On my first visit, every other table or take out order was from Thai speaking people; on the second more of a mix of locals.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Thanks for the report- Do you like the dish better with or without the basil?

I finally made it to Pak Nam to vet the Boat Noodles. I had the pork version with thin rice noodles. Unlike your beef version, I found it markedly sweet. Pork blood is said to be sweeter than beef blood, and it’s possible they enhance this characteristic with sugar. I also noticed the lack of pork kidney or other offal, and of cracklings as well.

Have you tried the version at Kyu3 Noodle and BBQ? I think it’s my favorite in town, especially for the fullness of the toppings (which included the cracklings and plenty of offal), though it’s been a while since I’ve had Zen Yai’s, and have never had their large bowl version.

I like both. The basil definitely adds something to the broth. I appreciate versions where herbiness is prominent, including ones where Chinese celery is noticeable. I think cilantro stem/root and/or coriander seed is supposed to be present in some recipes but I find it hard to isolate as a flavor. I would order one or the other depending on mood, and in this place whether or not I wanted noodle.

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I had the version at Kyu3 once. I think I thought it was decent but again that I liked Zen Yai better. I was sharing several dishes with some buddies and so was not as focused as I could have been- I remember liking the Kao Soy Thai and the Kao Ka Moo better than the boat noodle. I thought both were very good. I really can’t remember it (boat noodle) very clearly.

Actually, I’ve been meaning to go back to check it out again.

I wanted to follow up on this- I’ve been back perhaps twice since this post. On the most recent occasion I ordered the Nam Tok soup again and it was disappointing- salty and too sweet perhaps as others have said and in contrast to my previous experiences. I was also unsure if there was blood in it- we asked and they took it back to amp it up a little. There was also basil in it this time despite what I had been told earlier about the difference between Boat Noodle and Nam Tok.

Quality of ingredients still stood out, even though the soup was unbalanced. Crispy pork belly appetizer was outstanding, as good a version of this as I’ve had anywhere.

I will go back to Pak Nam, perhaps with less urgency, now given the disappointment with the soup. Higher on my priority is to go back to Zen Yai and Kyu3. Saap Ver is my new go to if my dining companions don’t feel like doing the Tenderloin.

Walked by today and saw that Pak Nam has re-branded itself as Pak Nam Thai Noodle Bar, and its menu has changed to mainly feature noodle soups, pan fried noodles, and fried rice.

Menu here:

Also, Kyu3 has closed, it’s now a Chinese restaurant called Lin’s Kitchen.

We ordered from Lin’s Kitchen for a lunch meeting recently - not good.

Thats too bad, I liked Kyu3 but it usually was pretty empty when I ate there. I glanced at the menu outside Lin’s Kitchen and it seemed pretty generic Chinese American.

After discovering Lapats don’t open for Saturday lunch, we walked a block and ate at Pak Nam, which recently transformed into a noodle bar as @Mr_Happy noted.

Dry Pork tom yum noodle soup. Marinated pork belly with flavorful crispy skin, plus a mixture that includes peanuts, chili flakes, ground pork, sliced fish cake, soft pork skin. Complex, and delicious.

“Ban Bung” original pork noodle soup. Nice tasting noodle soup with sliced pork, ground pork, fish ball. We picked rice noodle. The broth and the overall noodle reminds me of flavors from Vietnam.

Dry suki yaki. Recommended to us by the server. It turned out to be a big disappointment. The flavors from the tomato based sauce and the rest of the noodle dish did not combine well at all.

I wonder how they are going to fare now that Lapats, another Thai noodle place, is open. Has anyone done a comparison?


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According to their respective liquor liquor licenses, Pak Nam Thai is owned by Pitsanu Sanguansatya, who is also Principal owner of Lers Ros Thai, so expectations should be high.

The Esan Classic, the long-anticipated restaurant by Sanguansatya’s Lers Ros Thai partner, Tom Narupon Silargorn, just got its liquor license, so it looks like the Thai takeover of the Tenderloin is in full swing.