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Thai House Express [San Francisco]

Tried some new dishes, all great. I think the first three were specials.

Fried squid. Perfect, nice young squid, super-tender.

Fried rice with shrimp paste. Waitress asked if we'd had it before, we said no but we know what shrimp paste is and love it. She asks, how spicy, I say, Thai spicy. Yeah, that'll happen. It was great but not terribly spicy.

Pork leg stew noodle soup. Same great flavor, new liquid form.

95. "param Pak crispy tofu with mixed vegetables topped with peanuts sauce": the waitress recommended this when we asked for a dish with lots of veg to balance all the fat and starch. Reads like steam-table Chinese but it was actually great.

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  1. Those squid are my current SF fav. Thanks for the Param Pak rec.

    1. > She asks, how spicy, I say, Thai spicy. Yeah, that'll happen.

      Do you think it would help to say it in Thai?

      Very hot: Phet makh makh

      A little bit hot: Nit-noy phet

      Not hot: Mai phet

      (Not drunk: Mai mao, but that's another story. ;-)

      4 Replies
      1. re: Jefferson

        Actually I just want the cook to make it the way he would for Thai customers, which I think varies from dish to dish.

        The fried rice was great so I have no complaints except that there's noplace that good closer to home.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          You could say that you took a trip to Bangkok and you want the food to be as spicy as you had it there.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            i go here at least once a week as its the only thai in the city that satisfies my cravings. generally the spiciness varies when i order it thai hot, but its always at least at a normal hot level and about half the time they will make it really thai hot level. the only place in town that even approaches what i want in my larb gai.

          2. re: Jefferson

            Actually, it will be better if you say "Phet Nit Noi" for A little bit hot instead of "Nit Noi Phet".

          3. Have you tried their Chan Pad Pu on the special menu? It's almost like Pad Thai except it isn't. It has a different flavor and uses crab meat and slightly spicy. Much better than pad thai.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Problem Child

              Yeah, we've gotten that several times. Excellent dish.

            2. what i want to know is: What is with their new hours?
              the castro location is also closing earlier (1030 on fri/sat???).
              I haven't seen the slightly older guy who usually works the register in a while either. That and the "thai house" on market seems to have completely changed names. anyone know any details about ownership change? where my guy is? he knew me by name, i'd hate to lose that familiarity.

              8 Replies
              1. re: kairo

                Have the hours changed at the one on Larkin? They were hopping when we left around 10:30 Tuesday night.

                I've never been to the Castro location or the Thai House since from all reports they're more Americanized.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I think they (Larkin) are closing midnight most or all days. There's a banner. It's been a month or two. I'll have to try the pork leg stew noodle soup. Thanks for the tip (I usually call in for take out these days).

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    The one in the Castro was super super good last time I got takeout from them. I found it too be comparable if not better than the one in the TL-- not more Americanized at all.

                    1. re: finchycocoa

                      The Castro branch's specials menu is missing some of my favorites, like the catfish larb and shrimp paste fried rice. On the other hand, it has a much better wine list.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        do you know if they will make these dishes on request at the castro branch?

                        1. re: augustiner

                          I, somewhat unfortunately, confirmed that they will/can not make the "missing" dishes from the Larkin st menu at the Castro location.

                          i ordered the yum pla dook foo which is described as a catfish salad. Like robert several years ago i found it to be a bit unbalanced and somewhat underwhelming. a big piece of fried stuff (apparently containing minced catfish) with apples and cashews over cabbage and lettuce with an almost redeeming spicy/cilantro-ey/fish saucy dresing served up on the side.
                          It was ok, but did not come anywhere near larkin street's larb pla.

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          They do have a salted fish fried rice, which is somewhat funky and pretty salty; good, but not fantastic.

                          I tried the Castro branch again last night, and it wasn't super. Twice now, I've had the slightly heavy-set waiter when I've had very average food. This time, when he saw how many chilies I was adding to my (completely devoid of chili) salad, he commented, "wow, you do like spicy.' No crap, sherlock, that's why I explained that I've been to Thailand, like spicy food, and want the spice level and amount of fish sauce to be authentic.

                          Also twice, I've had fantastic food when I had the young waitress who is obviously the daughter of the middle age lady who manages the operation from behind the counter. She's bilingual enough to ask if I really want to order item x, ask if I know what it is, and if I say yes, I love it, and I like it really spicy, she'll give me exactly what I asked for.

                          I'll continue going to the Castro branch because parking/transit is so much easier for me, but I'll probably walk on by to Anchor Oyster bar if I don't see my favorite waitress.

                          I'm pretty certain the variability is all due to the person you have taking your order, because when I peeped into the kitchen, all the cooks looked Thai and were probably the regular crew.

                    2. re: kairo

                      Don't know what's up with the Thai House Express in the Castro, but the old "Thai House" on Market changed hands, and is now "Thai Corner Express" or something like that. New ownership but (I'm told) the same chef. I've been there a few times since the change and think the food is pretty good, but not spicy enough unless you ask for it. The portions are good sized too, I can order a couple of dishes for take-out and get 3 meals out of it (and I'm a big eater.)

                    3. I was not impressed the first time I visit TH. You guys just piqued my interest again. MAybe I picked the wrong location. I think I visitted the location that was not too far away from OSHA Thai.

                      Where is the best location to try it again ?

                      What dishes are the best there ?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Han

                        901 Larkin. Use the search to find many reports on what's good.

                        I'm not sure I've had one dish I wouldn't order again.

                      2. For closer to home you should check out Champa Garden (2102 Eighth Ave., Oakland). The menu is Southeast Asian eclectic, rather than pure Thai, but they have a lot of Thai dishes (the chef is Thai) and unlike most Thai restaurants, they have a mostly SE Asian clientele (it's on the fringes of Oakland's New Saigon district) so they might be more used to cooking in a more authentic style. Furthermore, the servers seem quite willing to discuss your order at length. In short, I think you have a pretty good chance of convincing them to prepare dishes to your liking. I think you might also have some luck requesting dishes you like that aren't on the menu.

                        1. It's reviewed in the Chron today, so it might be busy for a few weeks. He thought the shrimp paste fried rice lacked punch, so maybe I was right to say "Thai spicy."


                          1. Oh, damn, I forgot to order the shrimp fried rice "Thai spicy." No wonder it wasn't as good last night as the time before.

                            Tried some more new things:

                            #26 yum Pla Dook Foo (catfish salad): not much catfish flavor, the fried stuff tasted more like plain fried batter. Interesting but unbalanced, needed more fish flavor. Won't order again.

                            #41 rad Na Yen Ta Fo "rice noodles topped with fish shrimp balls tofu squid and shrimp in special sauce on the bed of spinach": also unbalanced, too sweet, fish balls were tasty but most of the other ingredients were too bland. Won't order again.

                            #45 kao Na Ped Pa-lo "five spices duck over rice": simple roast duck, tasty. Strange sweet sauce on the side but it didn't need it.

                            New hours: noon-midnight every day.

                            1. For what its worth, about a month ago, I went to Thai House Express on Larkin (I go there about twice a month) and ordered part of my usual repertoire, Shrimp Paste Fried Rice.

                              Waitress asked me, "You know what shrimp paste is right?"
                              I said, "Yes, I love it."
                              She said, "How hot?"
                              I said, "Super hot. Thai hot."

                              Normally I do not do this, but I usually have a pretty good tolerance for heat. I can usually do habaneros, Korean Hot, Szechuan Ma-La Numbing Hot, etc. Note that I am not not Thai, and cannot speak Thai, although I am Asian.

                              The Shrimp Paste Fried Rice ended up being so hot that I was literally shoving the rice by heaping moundfulls into my mouth and swallowing it as fast as possible without chewing in order to minimize the amount of contact that food had with my tongue, all while crying. Of course I was sweating profusely, with buckets of sweat rolling down my forehead. Basically "Thou shalt not waste" in my brain overpowered the "You are in physical pain" section of my brain.

                              I still love shrimp paste fried rice, but maybe next time I will not try Thai hot.

                              Jason in SF

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jhleung

                                Just eat it every day for a few weeks. You'll adapt.

                                1. re: jhleung

                                  I think that only happens to me 5% of the time. The other 95% of the time it is "restaurant hot" because they just don't believe you.

                                2. I ordered the shrimp paste fried rice again the other night, remembering to say I wanted it like Thai people eat it, and it even better than the first time.

                                  Tried a new dish, #83, "kana Pla Kem sauteed salted fish with chinese broccoli," basically the opposite of what the name suggests, it's a vegetable dish strongly seasoned with salty dried fish. Really good if you like strong salt fish flavors.

                                  1. Tried a couple of new-to-me items the other night.

                                    #1 toong gern yueng, the little deep-fried pasta pouches filled with minced chicken etc., not exciting but good and fun to eat.

                                    Larb pla, catfish salad (from the specials menu), really good, will order again.

                                    Also had bamboo shoot salad (painfully spicy), pork leg stew, roast duck, shrimp paste fried rice, all excellent as usual.

                                    Thai House Express
                                    901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      The Larb Pla really is amazing. It epitomizes the reasons thai food is so great with the awesome balance of spicy, salty, crunchy deliciousness. I had it at THE about a month ago, anyone who is there more regularly know how often it is on the specials board? Just wondering if it is really a special or something they have pretty often.

                                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                                        It was on the printed specials insert, which changes less often than the whiteboard.

                                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                                          Can you describe more fully what is in the catfish salad? Is the fish deep fried?

                                          1. re: lmarie

                                            The menu description is, "Deep-fried minced catfish with onions, cilantro, chili, lemongrass, rice powder, and lime dressing."

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              FWIW we were visiting last weekend and dined at the Larkin outpost of THE on April 20; we ordered the larb pla off the whiteboard. It was by far the best dish we ordered, expertly prepared with the ground rice providing a nutty counterpoint and bit of body to the lightly crisped catfish – a must have (and we loves our larbs moos and gais!).

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Here's a recipe for Catfish Larb in case you want to try making
                                                it at home.

                                        2. I thought I'd keep this post going as there are probably a lot of hounds planning their vacations to SF for this summer and Thai House is in the not to be missed category.

                                          I finally tried Thai House Express last Saturday. It was drizzly outside, I was hungry after seeing a representation of SF in cooking implements at the Asian Art Museum and needed some comfort food. I tried the much touted pork leg soup. It hit the spot, very comforting and nourishing. Thanks to all who have been recommending this place.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                            I'll help you keep this alive because it's a worthy establishment. There are many pros and many cons to living in the Tenderloin, but one of the pros is living a block from Thai House Express (on Larkin). While I'm not a Thai food afficionado, nor am I a super-picky eater, I have to say I've never been disappointed there. When I'm rushed or lazy, I'll sometimes grab something to go from there for dinner. This can include "safe" stuff like their delicious chicken and pineapple stir-fried rice, or something more adventurous. I'm also intrigued by the fact that they serve such traditional food in a non-traditional setting.

                                          2. A cross-reference for East Bay fans, a former chef of the Larkin branch has opened Chai Thai Noodles in Oakland, and the menu and food are very similar:


                                            1. Thanks to this thread, we ate very well for our first meal at Thai House Express (Larkin location) a few weekends ago! Husband and I ordered:

                                              Catfish Salad (larb pla): awesome explosion of flavors; loved the rice powder.

                                              Pork Leg Noodle Soup (w/ wide rice noodles): lived up to the hype; loaded w/ hunks of savory pork; broth was good; liked the pickled veggies.

                                              Shrimp Paste Fried Rice: very tasty but probably my least favorite; I usually don't order fried rice at restaurants but this was good; nice heat level.

                                              We ordered everything "medium" heat and it worked for our tastes. Not so hot that it stung or induced sweat...just the kind of heat that smolders and builds over the course of the meal. Pork leg soup not spicy at all.

                                              We got seated right away as walk-ins on a Sat. night around 8pm, although most tables were filled. We came straight from the SFmoma, and it was easy to get to and find street parking nearby. Efficient service but we didn't feel rushed. Liked the whole vibe of the place and will definitely come back. Cheap prices, good portions, food that makes me smile. Dishes on other tables all looked enticing, and I suspect if something sounds good to me on the menu, then I'll probably like it! Wine options weak (Castro seems to have more wines based on their website), but no big deal.

                                              Bonus was the Anthony Bourdain look-alike sitting a few tables down from us. I'm 99.9% sure it wasn't him, but man, the resemblance was striking! :-)

                                              Any updates out there?

                                              1. Went for the first time in ages, I'm not sure I've been since Chai Thai Noodles opened.

                                                Pork leg stew and fish paste fried rice, same as ever, great.

                                                The bamboo shoot salad was different, small strips of bamboo shoot, still had some of that funky flavor but more delicate, maybe an improvement over the old version.

                                                I don't think Chai Thai's quite in the same league.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I'm assuming you're referring to the location on Larkin. I revisited it about three times over the past two weeks, and in my opinion it's as good as ever, and is some of the best "street Thai" food in the city. I think they had slipped a bit when the Chai Thai chef first left, but they are absolutely on top of their game again (and the increased crowds help to prove it).

                                                  1. re: mikeh

                                                    Yes, Larkin. Never been to the other location and probably never will go there.

                                                2. The Larkin location changed hands in 2010. Official name is now House of Thai.


                                                  The people who sold it still own the Castro location:


                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Just noticed the name change for the Larkin location passing by on the bus yesterday! Do you know if the menu changed too?

                                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                                      A recent report of the new breakfast menu and unchanged regular menu:


                                                      1. re: Dave MP

                                                        The change was three years ago. The menu was the same as ever when I went in March.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          Really? I thought the sign said "Thai House Express" until recently. But I guess I could be wrong?

                                                          1. re: Dave MP

                                                            Maybe it took them a while to update the sign, but that's the dba they bought it with in 2010.

                                                            1. re: Dave MP

                                                              sign change was in the last month or so.

                                                              maybe pressured by Castro THE? since, as Robert points out, it's been like 3 years . . .