Excellent Lunch at Kim Thanh on Geary St.
Five hounds met for lunch today at Kim Thanh on Geary Street with crab on our agenda. None of us had eaten there before but somehow we managed to score 100% on our menu choices. Every item was a winner.
Deep Fried Frog with Butter
Salt Baked Crab with Butter
Crab with Ginger and Green Onion
Pea Sprouts with Garlic Sauce
The number of Chinese dishes on the menu suggests that Kim Thanh is run by ethnic Chinese from Vietnam though we did not confirm that. The menu indicates with a star which dishes are Vietnamese. The frog, salted crab and charbroiled pork were listed as Vietnamese and I believe we were told the noodles (not on the menu) were also Vietnamese style. The nice older gentleman who served us was very attentive and patient in answering our many questions. He provided two large bowls for dumping crab shells, two large finger bowls, ample extra napkins and crab crackers for all five of us. The décor was pleasant and functional.
These folks really know how to fry. There was a special crispy goodness in almost every dish. The charbroiled pork had a wonderful crispy caramelized coating and was very nicely spiced. The frog also had a great crispy coating and plenty of meat. With both these dishes after the meat was gone we eagerly cleaned the serving plate of the remaining little crispy bits of coating, garlic, onion and peppers. Most of the remaining sauce in the ginger and green onion crab ended up being consumed on rice. From the way we cleaned all traces of food off the plates it might have appeared we didn’t order enough but the actual reason was it just tasted too good to let any bit go to waste.
Prices were very reasonable. The crabs were $26.95 each and we paid $24 per person including tip.
607 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102
After almost exactly one year, with a couple of changes to the cast of diners, we revisited Kim Thanh for lunch.
We wanted the same dishes we so enjoyed and ordered them again this time with the exception of only the Salt Baked Crab with Butter (still don't know where the butter comes in...).
General consensus was that the crab, while good, didn't seem quite as good as the last time - it wasn't very sweet and mostly all I could taste was salt and pepper. I kind of wondered if maybe it had spent too much time in the fryer... Whatever, we inhaled 2 good sized crabs in what seemed like record time!
The frog was every bit as good as I remembered, crispy, grease less, nuggets of garlic in the batter, very tasty..
Two orders of the charbroiled pork were good but I didn't see evidence of a really caramelized coating although there were the crispy edges that make this dish so good.
The pea shoots with garlic were tender and sweet - just the antidote for lots of fried foods.
The charbroiled pork was so good that we had a second order.
The service is quick and pleasant. Finger bowls of tea with lemon slices were provided again and were appreciated by all.
All in all, a good meal - $27/pp
Thanks to Pia for arranging our lunch based on a recommendation from her friend Alexandria - I thoroughly enjoyed this meal! I believe it's the first in a long time without a clunker. Practicing some restraint, we didn't over-order...
Another vote for the kitchen's frying technique as noted by charliemyboy; Crispy, grease-free, just the best. As previously noted the Salted Baked Crab with Butter is different from the usual Cantonese salt and pepper or Viet roast crab. I don't believe it could have been better. Although I don't know where the "butter" came in - whatever, it was absolutely delicious and definitely worth the trip to the City from Menlo Park.
To reiterate, the second crab with green onion and ginger was good but for me, somewhat anticlimactic after the salt baked one. As noted, the sauce was delicious on rice. And the garlic noodles were a great carb addition (I don't see them on the take out menu but I'm almost positive I saw them on the menus that came to the table).
The frog was positively addictive with bits of crunchy garlic embedded in the batter. Probably the best frog dish I've had anywhere.
Large pea shoots, one of my all-time favorites, were just right. Tender without tough stems and just what I wanted in a vegetable.
A few blocks from Union Square (between Leavenworth and Jones), Kim Thanh is worth a visit. We were almost the only lunch visitors which seems a shame. As noted by charliemyboy, the service was pleasant and attentive with the dishes paced so that everything didn't hit the table at once. I appreciated the gracious addition of the large finger bowls with fragrant lemon slices.
There are many items on the menu that I'd like to try - among them: Deep Fried Squid, Deep Fried Oysters, Sugar Cane Shrimp Balls, Lemon Beef Salad (raw beef), Curry Lamb in Clay Pot, Clams with Basil, one of several Geoduck preps including Sashimi, and Sauteed with yellow chives or with black bean sauce (noted on the menu as "hot"). Would also like to try their Imperial Rolls. A couple of chicken dishes sound good and worth a try: Lemon Grass Chicken or Coconut Chicken. Under beverages, "Soda, egg & condensed milk with ice" sounds like the Viet version of an egg cream!
Charbroiled pork was a nice addition. Clean flavor, crispy, caramelized edges enhanced by the dipping sauce - lemon with salt and black pepper served on a bed of red lettuce meant for wrapping. A nice change from the fried goodness of the previous dishes.
According to the menu, they are open 7 days a week: Monday-Friday 11:30 am - 11:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 5;00 pm - 11:00 pm. (The menu says they open on weekdays at 11:00 but Pia was told 11:30 when she called to make a reservation for us). If you live in the area bounded by California, Van Ness, Turk and Stockton, delivery is free with a $20 minimum. Phone: 415-928-6627.
Don't know what their dinner business is like, but I'd like to see them get more business in general. A little gem worth a visit. If you're lucky, as we were, metered street parking is possible almost in front of the door for $2.00/hour and several garages are nearby.
I'll make an attempt to scan the menu and add it... wish me luck!
I'll second charliemyboy on his evaluation of the meal. Although we had some confusion as to the salt and pepper crab we thought we were ordering, which turned out to be a bit different from the usual Cantonese prep, this was my favorite dish of the meal. The deep fried crab pieces were more dusted with flour and seasoning than battered, and chunks of onion, garlic, and green pepper further heightened the flavors. The thinly sliced grilled pork was surprisingly tender and moist--and nicely complemented by the lemon juice dipping sauce. The garlic noodles were pretty good for the type popularized decades ago by the old Thanh Long, but I'm ambivalent (at best) toward chopped bottled garlic. Pea shoots were nicely cooked, retaining some crispness in the stem.
Though different from R&G, (with R&G making, to my taste, a better ginger-and-green-onion crab) I'd say Kim Thanh is definitely worth a return visit!
4101 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122
607 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102