The new restaurant openings in the Peninsula these days really surprise me. Isaan in San Carlos? Whaaaaaaaaaat?! Since when did San Carlos get its own Larkin Street? I thought we are supposed to get all the boring openings down here?
Now, most of the menu is indeed what we typically find in a Thai joint in the Peninsula- safe. Curries in every color. Fried rice with every choice of meat, etc. What caught my eye initially when I was looking for a restaurant in San Carlos, was the name of the restaurant itself- Isarn Garden. Are we getting an Isaan restaurant in San Carlos? For real? Indeed. There is a small section of Isaan dishes on the menu. And that’s where I mostly ordered from.
I did tell the server to not make any of the dishes sweet when I placed the order over the phone. Took her a while to understand what I meant. I don’t know if that actually changed how they cooked any of the dishes, however.
First, I got the kor moo yang, or fatty marinated pork, on the ‘secret’ menu on the restaurant wall.
Wow, where did that dish come from? It is spectacular. Succulent and the right mix between fat and lean. I am guessing they use neck meat? A slightly charred and caramelized outer layer, and a perfectly marinated and impeccably cooked meat inside. They didn’t bill themselves as BBQ pork, but this is a top contender of BBQ pork I have eaten in the Bay Area, and reminds me of some of the top BBQ pork in Hong Kong. Forget about the dipping sauce, the pork is just right as is, and needs no further accompaniment.
Larb moo tod, the deep Fried Minced Pork Balls with rice powder, mint, onions, and fresh lime juice. Also very good. Not very spicy as I thought it would be. The outer layer was a little crisp from the rice powder, and the meat balls were savory and delicious.
The spicy Bamboo shoot salad with bamboo Shoots, chili, fermented fish, rice powder, mint, green onions, and lime juice. The salad didn’t quite work for me as the combination of bamboo and fermented fish seemed to unbalance the dish, for me.
Pad thai. This is for the kids. Despite ordering all the dishes to not be sweet, the pad thai came sweet any way.
2 hits out of the 3 Isaan dishes for me- I am impressed and will definitely come back and try out more of their Isaan cooking. The server commented that they just opened up a month and a half ago. They can definitely use more business. Hopefully they can keep up the good work. @bbulkow @charliemyboy @rwcfoodie and everyone in the Peninsula, please go check it out and let us know how you like the other Isaan dishes.