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Apr 25, 2012 11:26 PM

Lers Ros - Yum [San Francisco]

Had lunch at Lers Ros on Hayes Street this afternoon, and it was fabulous.

A friend and I shared the duck larb (Larb Phed Yang) and the fried trout (Pla Trout Tod Nam Pla).

The larb was one of the most flavor packed dishes I have ever eaten, and may also have been the most texturally compelling. While I have said unkind things about ice burg lettuce in the past, I will never do so again. The ice cold, crispy lettuce and the spicy, lime-infused duck exploded in my mouth like nothing I have eaten before.

The trout was perfectly fried, sweet, and impeccably fresh. It paired beautifully with the mango sauce and some steamed rice.

I wish they had an East Bay branch, but I will certainly return to the city to experience more offerings on the extensive menu.

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  1. iceberg lettuce is indeed sometimes quite welcome. but sometimes it just sort of unintentionally crashes the party on occasion and just doesn't realize it (bless its heart).

    1. Finally had a chance to eat here after being thwarted on our previous visits (currently living in DC, but have lived in LA for the last 5+ yrs before that the Bay), and I have to say I came away disappointed. We took my gf's parents and sister, so we had to be a little conservative in ordering (only able to do one spicy dish), so we ordered the papaya salad, tom yum soup (I think, I am not a soup fan - had a bit of sourness with mushroooms in it), sliced pork shoulder, eggplant and tofu, spicy noodles with chicken (ordered "thai spicy - how you would cook at home") and beef pad prik thai. The papaya salad was the best dish, with decent spice. The pork shoulder was fatty and not especially tender or "smoky". The spicy noodle dish was solid, but not spicy whatsoever (ordered thai spicy). The eggplant dish was good, but could have used more eggplant, less tofu. The beef dish was good, but the meat was a bit fatty.

      Overall, this was a good dinner and service was good, but I just can't believe this is the best SF has to offer. This should not even be mentioned in the same breath as Jitlada.

      18 Replies
      1. re: mdpilam

        Were you at the Hayes St branch too or in the Tenderloin on Larkin St?

        1. re: mdpilam

          I have to agree with this for the Tenderloin location. The one time I went the spicy was definitely lacking (despite emphasizing that I really did not want it spicy), the dishes lacked the layers and dimensions of excellent Thai food. I was willing to chalk it up to the lack of heat, and will probably try again.

          1. re: goldangl95

            I meant "despite emphasizing that I really did want it spicy" above...

          2. re: mdpilam

            Having spent many hours in the Thai restaurants of LA, inclduing Jitlada, this is, at the moment, the best SF has to offer, and it does not compare to quite a number of LA Thai spots in Mid Hollywood. Wish it were not so.

            1. re: tomritza

              It seems as if the Hayes Valley branch is not as good as the Tenderloin branch, and the Tenderloin branch might not be as good as it used to be due to the split attention.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                After going a couple of times to the Tenderloin branch, I've been twice to Hayes. The roast duck was quite good, and even better was the shrimp fried rice with shrimp paste (on the house specialties list). Moderately spicy, but the winning details were the strong shrimp paste and the pickled (or fermented?) egg. The combination was great, if advanced.

                I think their strength is the more authentic dishes, not the generic Americanized dishes. I tried to ask them what they recommend but I they pointed me to the later, probably because I didn't specify that I wanted to eat what -they- eat.

                1. re: Breego

                  Frankly, I can't give them that pass. If they can't do curry right, they can't be very good....while not the most exotic of dishes, green curry, for example, is perfectly authentic and should be made well, with a complex layering of sweet, spicy, acidic, greeen and funky flavors...

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    This is exactly how I would have described the green curry at the Tenderloin location as of about a month ago on my last trip out to SF. It was spot on. I'd tried the curry at Hayes once and it was lacking in the aforementioned complexity.

                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I think the quality is as good at both branches, though I have a way bigger sample size at Hayes Valley. Their best things are definitely the more authentic and unusual dishes. And though it's far and away the best I've had in the San Francisco Bay Area - and very good in its own right - neither branch has ever struck me as being as good as at least one great place in Orange County.

                  And for those who say a place isn't any good because one particular dish isn't good, you're kind of missing the essence of Chowhound - to sniff out and find the great dishes, the specialties, not some generic overview of a restaurant. As the great restaurant critic Robert Nadeau wrote, there are no great restaurants, only great dishes. That's perhaps a little extreme, but a useful attitude to bring to Chowhound.


                  1. re: mdg

                    Could you specify the dishes mentioned in this thread that are not "authentic Thai?" Most, from my familiarity with Thai cuisine, are completely authentic....

                    If someone is to recommend a restaurant wholeheartedly on this board, as many recommend Lers Ros, one should be able to safely order the Thai dishes on the menu and have a good meal. If this is not the case, then the recommendation should be..."Visit Lers Ros! Their menu is hit or miss but they have great rabbit.."

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      I think IMHO the point is one can recommend a place yet say (and not specific to LR) "eh the larb tastes like ground caterpillars but the duck is awesome" qualifiers are welcome as no one place does everything perfect.

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I had a similar experience at HV recently though it was a Monday night so it could be that the B team was in the kitchen. I'm getting a sense that there is one chef who's really good and the rest still need to rise up to his/her level. If you happen to dine when s/he's cooking then you'll experience the wonders they can deliver. Otherwise, the meal can lack the balance of flavors that I've had with really good Thai food. Only the shrimp paste fried rice really stood out for us last time. The remaining dishes (pork rib soup, crispy pig belly, steamed sea bass) had mild, simple flavors. Yet we know from previous visits that the steamed fish can be fantastic. The wait staff do steer toward Americanized dishes unless you're insistent on having a different meal. I haven't found them to be a good guide to anything other than "popular" dishes.

                    1. re: rubadubgdub

                      I ate at Larkin St last night and I'm beginning to get a little worried. They've clearly spent money to upgrade decor and the menu prices reflect this. But the food quality is not what I remember from my past visits. The subtleties are missing and the flavors aren't as balanced.There was only one dish that stood out (silver noodles had great acidity and nice heat). The rest of the dishes we ordered were ok (curry puffs were boring, pork shoulder was not smoky nor tender, garlic and pepper fried rabbit was decent but chili sauce didn't add much, stir fried clams w basil had very little basil flavor and clams were a touch underdone), but I wouldn't crave any of them again. The shrimp w veg was very spicy bordering on unpleasant (why the heat in that dish and not the others, hmm?). Not a single Thai person that I could see in the DR at 730-830p.

                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                        Stopped by tonight and had a pretty good meal. House sausage was very good with Thai peppers & basil, pork salad with peppers & basil was very tasty, pork belly with crispy skin was amazing, crispy fried trout was good although the mango dipping sauce was too salty (ended up using the vinegar from the jalapeno condiment instead), and the only weak link was the pad see ew other than the noodles & veggies had a nice wok char on them (dish needed more heat).

                        The service was overly attentive to the point of being a bit annoying, but they had to be quick to clear plates because the tables are too small for the over sized serving plates. Do like the upgrade in decor though.

                        1. re: Civil Bear

                          Heat as in chiles? Pad see ew is not traditionally a spicy dish.

                          1. re: bigwheel042

                            Well I guess that would explain things. I still feel it could have use some punch.

                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I order delivery from Lers Ros weekly, and lately have been favoring the Hayes Valley branch. Most of the inconsistency lied with the pork belly with basil dish. The pork belly hadn't been as crispy as it should be, so I started ordering from Hayes Valley, and it's been good since.

                      Also the seasoning seems to be more my taste, ie. the sauce for the fried trout is not as salty as Larkin's.

                3. Had a fabulous dinner at the Hayes location about 3 weeks ago. The wine list is clearly well-curated (and in exquisite English, as opposed to the regular menu) and reasonably priced. Had the Larb Phed Yang to start, and was equally as delighted as the OP with this lovely salad. Entrees were the Pork Pad Phed, which comes with green peppercorns and with a hefty dose of fire. DC had Kaeng Keaw Wan Talay, a mixed seafood green curry that also packed plenty of heat. I'm not well-versed in the best Thai food, but this was definitely the most refined I've had and certainly pleased my palate. I would most certainly go back to try more.

                  1. At lunch I had the nam prik gappi plate from the board. It was excellent but as the servers cautioned huge (I was a a solo eater) - easily twice as large as I'm used to. Definitely have it if you are with four or more.

                    1. Boston hound here... We were in SF/Berkeley last week. Not much in the way of good eats (this visit was much more about spending time with friends at home with their kiddies) but Lers Ros Hayes Valley was at the top of our list. After having a couple of great meals in the Tenderloin, we wanted to try the Hayes location. Honestly, we loved this meal equally! Got our standards - pork shoulder, duck larb, and whole fried trout. I don't eat meat but my DCs report that both the pork and duck were as good as the Tenderloin locale. Ginger and garlic fried rice for those two, and that wonderful jasmine brown rice for me (actually, I think the Tenderloin's was slightly better). My only wish is that we should have ordered more broadly - all three dishes had the same same (but different!) piquant, lime-y, fish sauce-y flavor, which we love after many trips to Thailand but we should branch out a bit. We thought about getting a curry dish but our past experiences at Lers Ros told us not to. I can only dream about a place like this opening in Boston a la Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, which we loved in PDX a few years ago.

                      We missed out on Outerlands, Flour+Water, Comal, and Ippuku on this trip. But we had a healthy Norcal lunch at the Plant (I had the udon noodle bowl which could have used some nuance but had a jalepeno bite..yum!), a civilized lunch of comforting tomato soup and a big salad at RN74, ok late night dinner at Social Kitchen, a good pizza at Jupiter in Berkeley, a tasty fishcake and a big fat rice noodle dish from a late night Thai place in Berkeley, a fun late lunch/early dinner at the Beach Chalet (garlic fries still have us breathing garlic), decent everything bagels with delicious veggie toppings (for SF) at Java Beach, and a chill lunch at Sausalito Taco Shop (love the chips, which remind me of the chips you get for free at every place in Chicago...these are $3. WTF?!). Thanks SF!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: digga

                        >>"(love the chips, which remind me of the chips you get for free at every place in Chicago...these are $3. WTF?!)"

                        Ha! Not every place in Chicago... Just came back from a trip to Fontera Grill where we paid $4 for chips & salsa (didn't feel like shelling out $10 for the guac).

                        1. re: Civil Bear

                          Yo - CB...I'm talkin' 'bout the "real" Mexican places in Chicago...near South and West Sides were my haunts when I lived in Chicago back in the 90's. I can't imagine any of those family-run joints charging for chips and salsa. I like Frontera...but what an abomination to charge for chips!

                          1. re: digga

                            I hear ya', and I would estimate 90% of those type of places in the Bay Area (Marin County excluded) don't charge for them either.