[San Francisco, Union Square] Kin Khao

Well, not entirely too sure where to place my post about Kin Khao, but I tried this place recently with a friend.

Note, I have absolutely little idea what to order here and it was more of a spur of the moment choice. Also I honestly have very little knowledge of Thai food (mostly pad Thai or Drunken Noodles…).

I first ordered the Namprik Long Rua. Per the menu, it is a spicy, umami-bomb Kapi shrimp paste relish, served with caramelized pork jowl, crispy Passmore ranch catfish, seasonal vegetables

My idealized version was a stir fried version where the pork jowl and catifsh was placed in high heat with the seasonal vegetables with that spicy shrimp paste. Instead I felt like I got a veggie dip. The shrimp paste definitely had heat, though the saltiness from the shrimp paste pretty much overpowered everything. There were bits of pork jowl within the paste and crispy bits which I presumed was the catfish. The seasonal vegetables that I could easily pick out were the Thai eggplants, the pink radish, green mango, cucumber, bitter lettuce, daisy greens, and essentially fried eggplant. I’m glad I had a relatively sizeable amount of jasmine rice as it was pretty much munching down on a very salty salad.

Next up were the pretty hot wings. There are three of them, and these wings pack a powerful punch. The burning sensation persists in the back of your mouth for a very long time even though I was alternating between the rice, veggies, and the wings.

My friend ordered the Yaowaraj Noodle which are
Bangkok Chinatown stir-fried rice noodles with shiitake XO sauce & Hodo Soy tofu, green onions, cilantro

I personally liked that dish more than whatever I got. Had a good spiciness though I would have liked to try the non-vegetarian version and see how their version of XO sauce tasted like.

Anywho, personal take would probably not order whatever I did. I’d try the curries on the menu or the Yaowaraj noodles again, but I don’t think I’ll be back any time soon. Prices weren’t staggeringly high (for downtown SF), but … I’d come back if someone else treated and ordered.


Thanks for the report!

Do you know who’s running the kitchen these days?

Yes. your recent experience mirrors mine.
I used to like this place, but they seem to have lost their touch. No nuance to the dishes. Service was also way off.
I don’t believe this restaurant deserves to keep a Michelin star.

No idea, I wasn’t even aware there was a kitchen change over till I googled Kin Khao and HO and found that topic lol. I’m guessing its not the original.

Oh yikes :confused: I didn’t have too much to say about service, thought they were alright. Just their chicken wings kinda mirror my experience with Pok Pok in Portland and their wings. Though I found Pok Pok to be even more salty somehow. I like a little bit of fish sauce but dunno, just thought there was more salty notes than savory.

For years we had good/decent Thai places in the cities we lived, e.g. San Diego, Boston but for really good Thai we tended to look forward to visits of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. Obviously with Covid that became more difficult. Now living in the Bay area really also gave us hope to have easier access to high quality Asian places, including Thai.
Kin Khao https://www.kinkhao.com/ really stands out for Thai restaurants - the only one in the US with a Michelin star - even though those stars have to be taken with a grain of salt for non-western places. But our first visit to Kin Khao really didn’t disappoint and it clearly showed why it stands out to any other Thai place - not your standard Thai dishes, no pick your sauce, pick your protein approach, no choice of heat level - just outstanding Thai food.

Mushroom hor mok - curry mousse in a jar with mushrooms, coconut cream, crispy rice cakes

Khao yum - Southern style turmeric rice salad, seasonal vegetables, sour fruits, herbs, crispy shallots, coconut + puffed rice, tamarind + black sesame dressing

Yaowaraj noodles - Bangkok chinatown stir-fried noodles, hodo soy tofu, green onions, cilantro, shiitake XO

Massaman nuea - braised beef cheeks in massaman curry, coconut milk, burnt + crispy shallots, potatoes

Stir-fried baby bok choy with garlic and light soy

Caramelized pork belly - sweet, savory, voluptuous pork belly cooked in a cast iron

Black rice pudding with banana, salty coconut cream, crispy rice, peanut, sesame praline

Coffee panna cotta, taro, coffee syrup, cream, espresso sea salt, toasted coconut flakes


I haven’t been to Kin Khao since before the pandemic. Looks like they are going strong. Was it crowded?

We had an amazing anniversary meal here last weekend . We went with the $95 tasting menu, which included many of the dishes noted above, and it ended up being so much food that we took nearly all of the Massaman nuea.

One thing I’ll note is that when the server tells you a dish is spicy, you’d best believe them. I literally couldn’t take more than a couple of bites of the Nam Tok Beans (cranberry beans tossed Issan-style with lime, chili, rice powder, light soy, shallots, and herbs) without gasping for breath. As honkman noted, they don’t alter spice levels.


On a Saturday night, they were pretty crowded at 6:00 PM, and there was a crowd waiting to get in at 7:30. Reservations were easy to get, but they’re a must.


Thank you, that’s good to hear. And those Nam Tok Beans are one of my favorite dishes–but I love super-super hot. On the less-hot side, I always enjoyed the rabbit curry.

Have you been to Nari? (how about you @honkman) Curious to know how they compare?

It’s on our long, long list of restaurants to try - so many restaurants, so little stomach space

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I live close to Nari, so after it opened I tended to go there. Maybe I’m confused (probably) but Nari seems to me more upscale and with a bigger, more varied menu. I like them both quite a bit, but Nari is nearer to both my work and home, so it seems more convenient even though it’s probably costlier all said and done.

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I did the the chefs choice/tasting menu at Nari and it was $125 and it looks like Kin Khao has one for $95 so that sounds right.

Not yet. Kin Khao was a bit of a splurge, so we’ll have to save up more to go to Nari.

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