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Thai / Korean in or near Mountain View?

Coming from NYC, I used to eat Thai and Korean bbq regularly. But now, I rarely get either. I live near Castro and have been to the Thai place and Korean BBQ place (Ginseng?) on Castro. Both were tremendously mediocre. Is there anywhere nearby that is worthy of trying for dinner tonight? Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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  1. I've only been to the Seoul Gomtang in Oakland, but I've heard that the one in Santa Clara is equally good. Some other recommendations:


    1. I have not yet tried this place, but my co-worker recommended it today -- we will try it soon. If you are feeling adventurous, here is a new place, between Shoreline and El Monte:
      Tommy Thai Express
      1482 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040
      (650) 988-6857

      Please report if you do try it -- we are going back for a final party at Cafe Yulong tonight.

      3 Replies
        1. re: anyhow

          I had lunch with my family at Tommy Thai and we liked their preparations of salads, noodles, and fish cake (appetizer). Super friendly and helpful service and the chef gave small dishes of sauces for us to try. We sampled only a fraction of the menu and will be happy to return soon for more choices.

          1. re: anyhow

            I have Tommy Thai marked to try. I'll give it a shot. We actually ended up at Yulong last night. They were winding down what they were serving so a lot of my regular items were not available, including the shrimp dumplings and tea smoked duck, both of which i enjoy. I'm not as big a fan of their fish dumplings - while the wrapper is excellent, the fish is more of a paste, than actually chunks of fish. However, we did try some dishes we normally wouldn't order, including some "Americanized" dishes like orange peel chicken. What a revelation it was! Nice chunks of tender breast (coming from someone who usually prefers thigh meat) coated in a light coating with an appropriately gooey, sweet and spicy sauce. The frying was perfect also, as it wasn't too oily but remained crispy throughout. I never knew how could this could be and regret this will be my only shot.

            On a separate note, it was sort of sad being there last night. There was definitely an air of sadness amongst the staff, who are such good people and have always treated us well. Also, it was weird (and I could have misunderstood), but when I asked where the chef was, they said he was retiring and they didn't even know where he was anymore... Odd. And very sad. I will miss this place greatly.

          2. Tofu house in Palo Alto is decent. Shana Thai (Mountain View) and Lotus Thai (Palo Alto are OK).

            There is awesome Korean further south in Santa Clara.

            3 Replies
            1. re: goldangl95

              I will second Tofu House and Shana Thai. Maybe I will give Lotus Thai a try next!

              1. re: LabLady

                Lotus Thai is uneven. Sometimes they hit it out of the park, sometimes they don't. One problem is they don't have a consistent level for their spiciness. Sometimes, the "hot" is yumm -y spicy, sometimes there are so many chilis that I literally cannot put it in my mouth. So "your mileage may vary,"

              2. re: goldangl95

                I wanted to add Rama V in Sunnyvale to this Thai list. Flavorful and solid. Their spicy levels are legitimate. We eat very spicy food and usually pick medium over spicy. Good service too. Their menu is somewhat standard but it's a big improvement from Amarin or Shana.

              3. From everything I've heard, I'm not sure there is any Thai in the South Bay to compare with SF's best. Maybe the Thai population's just not large enough.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  This is correct. The only decently authentic Thai in close proximity to the Sourh Bay is what they cook at that Buddhist temple in Fremont on Sundays.

                  1. re: mikeh

                    Blue Mango in San Jose is the #1 choice of my son who has lived in Thailand for many years. When he and his Thai-born wife visited, they decided that Blue Mango was the most authentic and familiar of all the Thai restaurants they sampled, from San Diego to Seattle.
                    Blue Mango: http://www.bluemangocuisine.com
                    635 Coleman Ave
                    San Jose, CA 95110

                    1. re: anyhow

                      The menu's pretty Americanized. Do they get off-menu dishes?

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Indeed, there's no Thai restaurant down here remotely as good as Lers Ros in San Francisco. Tommy Thai's looks a lot like Thaibodia in San Jose, which was not good. But it's nearby so I might give it a try anyway.

                    The best I've found in the area is Thai Spoons in Sunnyvale (http://thaispoons.com). The pad kee mao is especially good there. It's a small strip mall storefront with no alcohol, but it's tasty.

                    There's a new Sudam Korean restaurant in Los Altos, which is closer to Mountain View than the alternatives listed, but I haven't tried it yet. Santa Clara is definitely the hotbed for Korean food in this area.


                  3. Ginsing is mediocre. Totoro is aweful. Tofu House, on the very south end of PA, is plausible but the decor is terrible and I can't get cell service there.

                    Shana is average at best. Thai Spoons (one block off castro) I've never been to. Krung Thai is mediocre - but I thought it closed. I would not call Amerin mediocre - I would call it non-exceptional, especially compared to what you're used to in NYC, but it's a regular for us.

                    What you're going to have to do is suck it up and eat a lot more Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Japanese.

                    And drive to Sunnyvale for Korean. Jang su Jang might be a good place to start - but be warned, it's not BBQ. I haven't seen a good, broad overview of South Bay korean - I have trouble with my forays because my GF says it's way too much food, which it is.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Thai Spoons is in Sunnyvale on El Camino just east of Mary, so it's not that close to Castro. It's not a destination - nothing Thai in South Bay is - but the best one that's close to me.


                      1. re: mdg

                        BANGKOK Spoon is what I was thinking of. One block off castro.

                    2. I am also an NYC transplant and my fiance and I get Thai take out from Old Siam about once a week... it's a small place but really good. The pad see ew and green curry are both awesome.

                      1. I'm mostly familiar with the area south of Mountain View.

                        Omagari in San Jose's Japantown is our favorite Korean joint although several of the places along El Camino in Santa Clara are pretty good.

                        There's a lot of okay Thai food around but our favorites are Old Siam in Sunnyvale, Thai Delight in Sunnyvale, and Blue Mango in San Jose. All reliable Thai places but nothing that stands out. We head to Thai Chai Noodle in Oakland if we want something more authentic.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: coledudley

                          I have to infer from its absence that Siam Orchid Organic in Palo Alto is no one's favorite!

                          1. re: Fine

                            I've only eaten at Siam Orchid twice. Both times it was average - not as good as the original further south.

                            Update on Amarin

                            I seem to be one of the few people on the board who likes Amarin, and I went there again today. They've updated their menu, and added two new more authentic entries. One is a "northern curry" that's very heavy on ginger and garlic, and uses what I think of as chinese bacon and pork belly. A nice dish. The second I didn't try: they call it "exotic green curry", which seems to have more of the interesting & authentic green curry items, like several kinds of pepper, peppercorns, kaffir lime, and the only "three chili" in the menu. GF was a little frightened, and we went with one of our favorites, Cashew Chicken (spicy), for which they always nicely toast their hot peppers.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              Yes, some of us appreciate Amarin for what it can do. (The number of internet comments in general, dismissing Amarin offhand while not making clear if the writers have much experience of the place at all, or understanding of its strengths, is awesome.)

                              I lately had a genuinely brilliant rendition of one of the Thai rice-noodle stir-fry standards there, scrupulously authentic, certainly equal to the Bay Area's best Thai cooking. Amarin also pulls off interesting unusual dishes, which change over the years (and are firmly ignored by the Yelpoid "Pad-Thai" crowd who seem to order even fewer cliché Thai dishes at Thai restaurants than they do cliché dishes in Chinese restaurants, a striking accomplishment). Amarin also has demonstrated brisk order turnaround, even when the restaurant is very busy, in dozens of meals large and small, that I've had there in 20 years, many of them very fine.

                              Amarin's current competition within a few miles consists of the very unusual Tommy Thai (Cambodian menu hiding inside a Thai one; same Cambodian restaurateur family as recently opened Buffalo Beers Burgers Baos on Castro St.); Shana, nearest real competitor, which I've found often very fine but inconsistent, as if many hands cook there on different days (single-visit impressions can vary widely there); newcomer Bangkok Bistro on Rengstorff, small place, small menu, some of it dumbed down with the fashionable "choice of proteins" routine but some of it very good; and Buda Thai on Whisman, which gets big crowds from nearby workers, but delivered consistently mediocre food when some of us went there recently -- a come-to-life version of the dismissive comments earlier in this thread about south-bay Thai restaurants, some of which cannot be from people who have done serious samplings of the kinds of places bbulkow and I are reporting.

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Would love to hear the name of the thai rice-noodle stir fry that was done brilliantly! Looooove the spicy ones.


                                1. re: miss louella

                                  That was "Lunch noodle special #5" on menu, "Spicy pan-fried noodles with chicken & sweet basil," $8.99. Otherwise, pad ke-mao or -kee-mow. And no nonsense from the server like "do you want it spicy?" (A certain serious heat is inherent in a proper pad ke-mao.)

                                  I complimented the kichen to the people at the cashier stand, and left a generous tip %-wise ($5) because the dish was so good that time. Chatted with server, who has been there these 20-plus years. We reminisced about when Amarin was still split between two non-adjacent addresses on Castro St, while what's now the Amarin location today was two other, diverse, restaurants, Castro St Bar & Grill and Tien Fu, with shared bar joining them.

                                  Amarin has also done (tho it may have rotated off the menu) a different, delicious, less common spicy rice-noodle stir-fry, all white, with crab meat. And I've enjoyed the other rice-noodle standards, rad nar and pad see-iew, although I regard those two as slightly simpler dishes, easier to get right than pad ke-mao (I've also cooked them at home with good success from established Thai cookbooks).

                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                    Oh yum, thanks so much. I was hoping you'd say pad kee-mao since that's one of my favs and is extremely difficult to find done well. (Though disappointingly easy to find done poorly.)

                                    1. re: miss louella

                                      I got to be fond of that dish in 1981 or 82 at the original Plearn in Berkeley, right off the UC campus (during the original wave of Thai restaurants in the Bay Area, and before Plearn moved a few times). The one last week at Amarin might as well have been made by the same cook as at the original Plearn. I also relish that Amarin's server didn't ask me how hot I wanted the dish. Neither did Plearn. They both simply seasoned it right.

                                      That is not to say that Amarin has always made the dish precisely the same in my experience, but pretty close. LOTS of other things too on its menu, as bbulkow said. Current pictorial menu display on a wall in front of the restaurant, too.