Oh my God, am I really about to send you to a restaurant playing Michael Bolton, Peter Cetera, and Backstreet Boys on the stereo? You can bet your sweet, easy listenin' ass I am. Because it's where you're going to find some of the most refreshingly authentic Thai food I've ever tasted in San Francisco.
I've been a fan of Sai Jai Thai around the corner for a while, but ~LERS ROS~ is my new Thai lover, and it puts on one hell of a show, no bananas needed. The food here is so freaking delicious, crazy cheap, and it's open until 2am in the goddamned morning. I haven't even gotten to the food and I'm already swearing like a sailor.
Fortunately I dined here with a native Thai speaker (and star tablehopper reader) who totally helped show me the menu ropes since it has 114 items on it, eep. We got a big group together and had such a ridonkadonk feast for the paltry sum of something like $25 a head, with beers and tip included in that 2009-friendly tab. Where do I sign? Oh yeah, right here.
Now, before you saddle up in your Jimmy Choos and start up the Jag, you should know the neighborhood is, well, let's just say it's not a place where I want to hang out in my heels and show a little skin, lest someone think I'm a workin' girl (albeit a well-fed one). And once you're inside, the décor is, uh, really simple. But that smoove soundtrack adds a lot of color, let me tell you.
To the food. If you mimic this feast for your first tour, you're gonna be stoked. I'd almost offer a money-back guarantee, but in this nitpicky town, that would be stupid of me. Oh, and be sure to tell them medium spicy, not hot, or you're gonna cry, your tongue will puff up, and spicy twicey will be no laughing matter.
We started with the #12 Som Tom Poo Dong ($7.25) (keep the third-grade jokes to yourself, okay?), a shredded green papaya salad with salty crab, a tangy lime-based dressing, and yes, some chili. The tomatoes were a far cry from farmers' market beauties, but whatevs. Be sure to ask for it Lao-style, with no sugar, medium spicy: it will be pungent and sour and spicy, which is how I was told the dish should taste (I hope you like spice or this place is going to be challenging for you).
The next plate to hit the table was one of my faves, the #21 Yum Woon Sen ($6.95) glass noodle salad with ground pork, shrimp, peanuts, and that chili-lime kapow I love so much, plus other goodies like fungus and onion. (If there's a vegetarian in the group, they can order a vegetarian version of this dish.) The texture of the #26 Yum Pla Duk Foo ($7.95) was rockin', a salad that features crispy and light pieces of boneless fried catfish.
Some appetizers you can and should try are the juicy slices of the (can't miss) #4 Thai Herb Sausage ($6.25) served with pieces of ginger and Thai chili; the #9 Koh Moo Yang ($7.25), slices of smoky pork shoulder you dunk into a rice powder/chili pepper sauce that is simply outstanding; and the jerky-like #6 Nuer Tod ($6.95), with even more chili sauce to dunk the chewy-crunchy beef bits into.
The dish that totally plunked me into the flav-o-rama zone was the #25 Larb Phed Yang ($7.95), a magical combo of tender chunks of roasted duck that contrasted against fresh lettuce, onion, Thai basil, and that awesome rice powder-chili-lime sauce that I want to put on everything, including my romantic partner's, oh, I'll stop right there.
Just when I didn't think I could love a dish more, the infamous #62 Pad Kra Prow Moo Krob ($7.95) shows up, a saucy dish of pork belly (actually more like a purely evil version of Thai chicharrones), bell pepper, scallion, and basil leaves. It's a hefty portion, with satisfying texture and rich flavors. Most everyone who has had this dish is all cracked out for it, let me tell you. Goddamn!
Oh yeah, and the #53 Kao Kha Moo ($7.95) was no slouch either, a five-spice super-tender pork leg that comes over a bed of pickled mustard greens and Chinese broccoli in a bath of brothy goodness. Double goddamn.
We all got sweaty with the #29 Poh Tak ($7.95), a sour and spicy seafood soup that was one hell of a nasal passage clearer, and good for a group. Nothing really groundbreaking per se, but tasty nonetheless. Be sure to get some sticky rice, because you get your individual portion in a little woven basket, something I've never seen around town. I was also told that the alligator, wild boar, and all those other exciting-sounding items aren't really that exciting and are a bit spendy, so caveat emptor on those. I'm sure I'll get around to the frog anyway. Chang beer will get you through the meal in sudsy style.
Service is friendly, but my main beef is how your table will get pummeled with all your dishes at once, so maybe just order a few apps and then your mains—otherwise it all comes out fast and furious.
I haven't tasted such bright, exciting, full-of-personality Thai food in I don't even know how long. And with so many dishes for $8 and under, it's totally within reach for many people. I hope they continue to serve until 2am, which will only happen if people go go go—it's such a gem. Support this place, people! You'll want to anyway, it's that good.