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what NOT to get at Lers Ros Thai

Went for lunch. I can easily say that 3 of the 4 dishes were exceptional. But one was a total disappointment.

The 2 curries were each amazing.
The spinach in a garlic sauce was delightful.

But the grilled chicken with sweet & sour sauce was a dud -- it was warm on the topside, but cold bottom. And tasted as tho it was reheated leftovers from the day before.

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  1. That's unfortunate - sorry to hear it. Though if it was indeed reheated, I'm not sure that it follows that it's something to generally avoid - I mean, without knowing if they regularly end up with leftover grilled chicken, we don't know how relatively likely it is (compared to other hot dishes) that they'll throw it under the heatlamp.

    Anyone else had bad grilled chicken experiences here?

    10 Replies
    1. re: bigwheel042

      My friend got a papaya salad "with grilled chicken", which meant an obscenely large chicken breast smothering up a tiny inedibly spicy salad that tasted mostly of fish sauce. And at under $10, you can be assured they weren't using high-quality ingredients.

      I know I'm deep in the minority on this one, but I've always found Lers Ros to be one of the most overrated restaurants in San Francisco.

      People have this infatuation where the more authentic a restaurant is, the better the food is, whereas there's really not much correlation. I don't doubt that it's the most authentic Thai restaurant in San Francisco, but that doesn't make it the best.

      1. re: vulber

        I wouldn't order the pork liver again.

        I wouldn't order the acacia omelet again, either, it was interesting to try but not worth the price compared with other dishes.

        Probably wouldn't order the pork puff again, it was okay and so was the price but not as exciting as other dishes.

        Last time I was there we had an eel dish that was tasty but a pain to eat due to little bones.

        I don't have any way to judge authenticity of Thai food. "Inauthentic" usually seems to mean "not the way mom made it."

        I just think the cooking at Lers Ros is more sophisticated than at any other Thai place I've been, and I've had very few dishes there I didn't like a lot.

        1. re: vulber

          To address your authenticity question: you would never see a grilled chicken breast perched atop a green papaya salad in Thailand. That's a concession to people wanting a single dish for lunch when they are on their own.

          As for the salad being "inedibly spicy" and tasting of fish sauce, that's pretty much how it is supposed to be. If you don't like spice or fish sauce, you shouldn't be ordering green papaya salad at a place that is remotely authentic. Not every restaurant can be everything to everybody.

          Personally, I find the flavor of the wild boar interesting, but the meat is generally on the tough side. I guess I just prefer pig bred for luscious edible texture rather than wild boar

          Other comments on authenticity: I really didn't see much tofu or chicken in Thailand. There is definitely some tofu to cater to vegetarians, but it was never something I saw friend in a sweet gloppy sauce. Similarly, you might come across a little bit of shredded chicken worked into something, but chickens mainly existed to provide eggs. In city centers with refrigeration, you'll see larb gai (diced chicken mixed with herbs, fish sauce, pungent vegetables), but I don't recall seeing it much as street food or in the countryside.

          So, if I order a curry, I go for beef or pork. Chicken is usually pretty dull.

          1. re: SteveG

            i'm pretty sure i'm supposed to be able to taste the papaya in a papaya salad, which i couldn't because of the spiciness and fish sauce

            1. re: vulber

              Actually, not really. Green papaya has little flavor since it's not ripe. It's there for texture, body, juiciness and crunch.

              Is there a green papaya somewhere else that you prefer to get a handle on your tastes? I tend not to order this except at places that I know will not stint on the chile heat and fish sauce.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Yeah, green papaya doesn't have much flavor, and what flavor it has is nothing like ripe papaya.

                I'm the only person I know who likes the spicy version at Wat Mongkolratanaram. When there with a group I get a spicy and a mild and let people mix to their own taste.

            2. re: SteveG

              Was just in Thailand a month ago and saw chicken all over the streets of Bangkok in skewers on the carts. Had ridiculously tasty chicken thigh and especially chicken butt skewers. That said, chicken was not as ubiquitous as pork in the street stalls and non-touristy restaurants, but it was around. Had some great Thai fried chicken from a street stall after seeing lots of locals ordering it.

              1. re: PekoePeony

                Thanks for the reminder, of course now that you mention it we saw lots of grilled chicken on skewers at street food stands in Bangkok. I guess my perception was skewed by smaller cities in the countryside where we just didn't see much of it. In restaurants, we tended to order curries with pork or beef, since those meats stand up to being braised in the curry much better than chicken, and that style of curry is my preference.

                1. re: PekoePeony

                  There's also lots of barbecued chicken served in the north of Thailand.

                2. re: SteveG

                  I tried the boar yesterday night. While the flavor was good, and I agree the meat was on the tough side, but the "meat" was still edible and not jaw breaking jaw aching tough.

                  The problem is they included what I think is the skin. Now that was tough, like chewing rubber, more chewy that stomach, or tripe. Kind of like uncooked tendon.

                  If they added more boar meat, and cut out what I think is the boar skin, this dish will be much better. Also, the skin and meat, contained alot some fat.

            3. I've ordered Pad Kee Mao with chicken plenty of times, and the chicken is always dry and tough.

              1. I personally found the curries very oily.. and wasn't a fan of that. But there are plenty of other great things on their menu!

                1. Count me down as one who loves the grilled chicken on the lunch menu. I have never had a problem with it.

                  What I don't like is their version of the with basil and chili peppers. It is one of my favorite Thai dishes, so I need to make a special effort just to remember not to order it at Lers Ros.

                  I am also not a fan of their rad nar. I generally don't care for it anywhere, but had read that Lers Ros did an exceptional version of it. True it is better than most, but still not good enough for me to order again.

                  1. I had an appetizer of fried tofu that was tres meh

                    1. I love Lers Ros but don't dig the Koh Moo Yang (slices of pork shoulder) as much as I do at Sai Jai around the corner. It's not as smoky and has overall less flavor. Also, I'm not a fan of the Kao Kha Moo (5 spice pork leg).

                        1. So I went for lunch today. It was pleasant, but nothing that I would go out of my way for as a visitor to San Francisco.

                          The papaya salad with crab was okay, but the papaya was not sliced thin enough and it lacked that "je ne sais pas" of a truly great som tom. The sauce was a bit gloppy and it lacked that true oomph of greatness.

                          I also ordered the fish cakes off the "special" menu. Again okay, but not crave worthy.

                          Based on this experience, I do not think I would go out of my way to return. I was hoping for something like Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas (which is definitely a restaurant worth getting on a plane for).

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: omotosando

                            Oops, I meant "je ne sais quoi." That something that you can't quite put your finger on that makes a great som tom aka papaya salad.

                            1. re: omotosando

                              I'm sorry your experience at lunch wasn't great. They are open pretty late (1 AM?), so given the high number of complaints about lunch, maybe the daytime chefs are trainees?

                              I've been to Lotus of Siam multiple times, Thailand for weeks, and I've always been pretty thrilled with my meals at Lers Ros. Perhaps it helps to order a traditional variety of dishes with one heavy curry, one or two blistering hot things, and something grilled. That way they can use a more traditional range of spice levels for the different parts of the meal and season each dish as it should be seasoned. If we get a clunker, we still have plenty of other great food to console ourselves with.

                              1. re: omotosando

                                I don't think the two dishes you ordered really showed off what Lers Ros can do. The dishes that have excited me the most have been fresh seafood and meat, like the salt and pepper rabbit and the pork belly.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/592489

                              2. Along these same lines, I've considered ordering delivery from Ler Ros, but never have because I was afraid the quality would suffer. If anyone has ordered delivery, what has your experience been?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sheriff

                                  There's discussion of delivery from Lers Ros in other threads. In general it is pretty good. Not as good as eating at the restaurant, but delivery from Lers Ros is still better than all other Thai you can find in San Francisco with the exception of less than a half dozen places.

                                  Obviously, sticking to soups, curries, and salads is a better way to go than ordering a bunch of fried stuff or pad thai and expecting it to be amazing after being driven around for a while. Probably our favorite delivery dish is the grilled thai sausage, which doesn't suffer at all for the trip.

                                2. went to Marnee Thai the other day; granted, I don't know very much about Thai food, but if location isn't an issue, I can't really see why anyone would go to Lers Ros over Marnee, but that's just my two cents

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: vulber

                                    Glad you liked Marnee. More sugar, less fish sauce, less chili, watered-down seasonings at Marnee to appeal to farang customers. I hope all of them go there and don't try to water down Lers Ros.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      That was certainly not my experience at Marnee, I felt everything was strong and still spicy, just not to the point where it's unenjoyable

                                      1. re: vulber

                                        Which location? The flavors may be "strong" to farang tastes and are intended to be enjoyable to that kind of palate. Marnee has that dialed in very well and knows what is popular among its target audience. But the food is far from Thai vim and vigor and quite dumbed down.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          was at the one in the outer sunset. i don't liek thai food that's all sugary, i just like food where i taste fresh ingredients and herbs

                                          i also find it hard to believe that lers ros uses very high-quality ingredients given their portions and prices

                                          1. re: vulber

                                            Vulber, based on some of your other recs (Tu Lan, the curries at Battambang), I think you actually do like your Southeast Asian food on the sweeter, less funky, and less spicy side. I'm not much of a chilihead, but I found the spiciness at Lers Ros pleasant. There's nothing wrong with recognizing that you like your Southeast Asian food tweaked for the American palate - it definitely helps to know your preference so you can keep selecting restaurants that suit your preferences (for example, Melanie was right on that you would hate Green Papaya Deli).

                                            -----
                                            Battambang
                                            850 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                                            Green Papaya Deli
                                            207 International Blvd (at 2nd ave, Oakland, CA

                                            1. re: daveena

                                              I like delicious, flavorful food. I also think I could have gone on an off night, which wouldn't be super surprising, given the fact that they've said that they actually have four chefs that share head chef duties, as I really did not enjoy the pork belly dish, which had nothing to do with spiciness.

                                              1. re: vulber

                                                What did you not like about the pork belly? I've enjoyed that at lunch and dinner on various days, so presumably made by different cooks.

                                                More generally, over maybe ten visits, I haven't found any inconsistency in the cooking except that the noodles had great wok char once and not the second time. But I've pretty much gone off ordering noodles there.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  It just didn't seem very flavorful, and unable to stand on its own.

                                        2. re: vulber

                                          My experience matches Melanie's on Marnee Thai, though on occasion I've gotten them to give me things almost as spicy as I wanted.

                                          The key thing you're missing here is that some of us actually enjoy things so spicy that the spiciness induces an endorphin rush. We can't get that at Marnee Thai. Obviously the vast majority of people don't want food that spicy, which is where most Americanized Thai restaurants come in. Lers Ros is largely free from Americanization in its food, but again, that style is not for everybody.

                                          1. re: SteveG

                                            there are also very few thai restaurants that won't increase the spiciness if asked; the main difference is that lers ros starts off incredibly spicy and will reduce the spiciness, most others start off not too spicy and will increase it

                                            1. re: SteveG

                                              As RL points out below, not every dish is supposed to or needs to be spicy. But the ones that have evolved through traditional cooking to be made fiery should have all their testosterone intact. The skill of the kitchen (and the wait staff who help guide the ordering) can show through in putting together a set of dishes where the heat levels and type of seasonings create a broad spectrum of flavors, cooking methods and spicing.

                                        3. re: vulber

                                          I tried Marnee once, seemed like a better than average neighborhood Thai place with the standard Thai-American menu items. I'd be a regular if I had a place like that in my deprived neighborhood but wouldn't drive across town let alone the bridge for it.

                                          Most of my favorite dishes at Lers Ros aren't supposed to be spicy, though the shrimp paste special that was similar to prahok was both very spicy and very fishy, definitely not something that would be a big seller at a place where most customers aren't Thai.

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5924...

                                        4. lers ros is reportedly adding a new location in hayes valley (at franklin):

                                          http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2010...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: artemis

                                            Wow, would that be great news! That would be in the new condo building that has lots of restaurant / retail space on the ground floor. I'm in that neighborhood more than any other in SF so I would finally be able to sample more of their menu.

                                            Michael

                                          2. The alligator was fine, but I wouldn't order it again, in that preparation I think duck would be tastier and definitely cheaper.

                                            1. Weird that there's no link.

                                              Let's hope the Hayes Valley branch won't be like the Castro branch of Thai House Express.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Forgot the link.

                                                -----
                                                Lers Ros Thai
                                                730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I feel like Lers Ros has been stable enough and always has enough white faces in the dining room that they understand there is an internet-driven demand for real Thai Food for non-Thai eaters. I'll be a regular at the Hayes Valley location and make sure they know we're out there ;-)

                                                  Even if it's like the THE in the castro, it would still probably be in the top ten for San Francisco city limits.

                                                2. To this list, I'll add the venison pad ped that we ordered Saturday night. The lean meat was very dry and on the tough side. Also, I think I'll be skipping the rad nah. Even though the gai lan was cooked beautifully, the skimpiness with the noodles is just silly and the pork slices weren't that tasty.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Yes, I've noticed the skimpiness on the noodles and just stopped ordering noodles here altogether.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      Yeah, the venison and the noodles were disappointing -- I just don't think venison lends itself to stir-frying.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Even the chicken once we got with Pad Kee Mao was pretty dry and tough.

                                                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        I had a great noodle dish last week. It was on the no-English specials menu, the server translated it as "dry noodle." Had crunchy bits of chicharron, some kind of pickled vegetable, I'm not sure what all. Reminded me a bit of pho minus the broth.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          Sounds yummy. We forgot to ask them what was on the Thai-language specials board.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            I really like this one too. I had similar noodles in Thailand, where it was translated to me as hot and sour dry noodles. The version at Lers Ros was more hot than sour but it was great to mix up all the ingredients and enjoy each unique bite.

                                                        2. I ordered the "real fish balls" and the dish was great. It used a spice I've tasted in Thailand but is missing from most Thai restaurants here. The fish balls were very interesting - made me understand why fish balls are on most Thai menus. Very nice.

                                                          The two other people at the bar were tourists. Probably scoping from yelp. One asked for Shaking Beef and was directed to Spicy Beef, and also asked for chopsticks (thailand is not vietnam is not china), and the other was steadfast in her interest in chicken pad thai. Not that I've got anything against tourists, but when I'm eating somewhere with a *Chef's Specials* list, I pay attention!

                                                          Ate at the bar, which saved time - a fairly small place but clean and slightly upscale for the neighborhood.

                                                          1. I love most everything on the menu except these:

                                                            Rad nah- plenty of gravy, but just a few noodles and as many veggies on the plate. Don't remember seeing any pork.

                                                            BBQ chicken- arrived lukewarm and with shriveled skin, the sauce tasted just like that bottled sweet chili sauce found at Ranch 99. I've had the bbq chicken off those street carts in Bangkok, and this was nothing like that.

                                                            Green papaya salad with raw crab- imagined it to have just the crab meat, but actually the salad was topped with a blue crab, shell and all, halved. Required a lot of work to get the meat out, and while a lot of people may love it, apparently raw crab isn't my thing.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: alag

                                                              we had the raw crab at the Hayes Valley branch. Loved the crab, but agree it was super difficult to eat. don't have enough experience to comment on the rest of the salad, but we enjoyed it. Less herb filled than I have had in elsewhere...but I am not sure that is really authentic.

                                                              The Hayes Valley branch was empty on Saturday lunch time...

                                                              1. re: jsaimd

                                                                This may come as a shock, but if the crab was Bpoo Kem from Thailand, the shell is generally supposed to be eaten. http://thaifoodandtravel.com/blog/sal...

                                                                (Not sure how it's supposed to be handled when regular blue crab is substituted for salted paddy crab.)

                                                                1. re: bigwheel042

                                                                  i thought about that because I usually will eat shell on shrimp etc. instead of peeling. However, this was super hard shell - you would need jaws of steel to eat. And raw crab doesn't come out of the shell with ease.

                                                                  1. re: jsaimd

                                                                    One doesn't actually eat the salty crabs or their shells. They're included to lend a special taste, and you might suck on the shells to extract more of the flavor but no need to chew and swallow.
                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5630...

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                      Ah, I had read a couple of conflicting posts which confused me, having been bewildered by the salted crab version at THE a few years back. Here's something I found explaining the difference between bpoo kem and bpoo ma, which it sounds like Lers Ros serves: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

                                                            2. What a great thread... wish I saw it earlier.

                                                              When the #79 Rad Nah arrived, we were confused and had to ask the server to remind us what we ordered. She assured us it was flat noodles in gravy. We had to dig around to find the minute number of noodles and needed to eat the dish over rice.

                                                              For a first timer, I'd recommend skipping the #114 whole tilapia or at least emphasize that you want it very spicy. It's good, but the #113 whole trout, though different, is an order of magnitude better.