Best Thai San Francisco 2005 -
Thai House Express
901 Larkin (at Geary), 441-2248
The beautifully conceived dishes that come out of the open kitchen here at blinding speed (hence "Express") would do honor to much fancier surroundings -- and prices. The setting does have its charms (the metal-topped tables, blond wood banquette, and abstract paintings read urban bistro rather than inexpensive ethnic dive), but the real draw at this brightly lit corner spot is the food: wonderful salads of shredded green papaya or bamboo shoots, spicy stir-fries of tender squid, airy chive cakes. Whatever you do, don't miss the kao ka moo, described as "special pork stew," a fragrant, succulent dish of shredded pork that a friend dubbed "five-spice carnitas."