I'll Have What She's Having

Eating at Marnee Thai can be an education in making difficult choices.

By now I'm almost ready to cry uncle, but no. We continue with an excellent version of pad thai ($8.95), the classic dish of fried rice-stick noodles, bean curd, egg, bean sprouts, peanuts, and still-bouncy shrimp, coated in chile sauce with some bite to it. One unusual, subtle dish becomes an instant favorite: prawn and scallop pad phong ka ree ($12.95), shellfish, onions, and mushrooms with lightly scrambled egg and creamy yellow curry sauce. So, too, does red curry (kang dang) made with sliced, roasted duck ($10.95), with succulent fat between the flesh and skin, plus pineapple, tomato, and bright red bell pepper.

Over and over, my mouth is thrilled by exciting, fresh flavors in thoughtful combinations: fragrant lemongrass; peppery, gingerlike galangal; verdant sawtooth leaves, aka Thai coriander; and sweet kaffir lime leaves. Chef Chai's sauces are enlivened with pastes he makes nightly — recipes for half a dozen are included in his book, Thai Cuisine Beyond Curry (available at the restaurant) — which are unusually fragrant and lively. I'd happily eat my way through the entire menu, but I can't imagine not ordering the exquisitely diced-and-plated miang kum, nor the corn cakes, nor the avocado salad, which is chunks of the ripe green fruit tossed with shredded green mango, crunchy fried shallots, and fat shrimp, coated in a bright citric dressing and topped with toasted coconut. It's amazing, especially with the crunch of the shallots against the melting avocado.

For dessert, we get an exemplary dish of black sticky rice with coconut ice cream ($4.95) and, even better, roti, a lacy, churrolike fried-dough confection ($4.25, $5.25 with ice cream). My friend, who has been happy to share his expertise all night long, isn't happy to share the roti. In addition to the one we order for the table, he gets one all to himself. After tasting it, I know why.

A full house at Marnee Thai must choose from an extensive menu.
Jen Siska
A full house at Marnee Thai must choose from an extensive menu.

Location Info

Map

Marnee Thai Restaurant

1243 Ninth Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Sunset (Inner)

Details

731-9999, www.marneethaisf.com. Open daily 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: street, difficult. Muni: 6, 43, 44, 66, N. Noise level: moderate.
1243 Ninth Ave. (at Irving)

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When we exit Marnee Thai and see numerous produce boxes, broken down and neatly bound for recycling, I'm reminded of all the superb fresh ingredients that go into its amazing cuisine that, even more amazingly, costs no more than any run-of-the-mill, tired Thai place in the city.

And next time, I'll be happy to do the ordering.

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