Born in Chon Buri, a coastal province about 45 minutes southeast of Bangkok, chef Tom Silargorn learned to cook by his mother's side. Three years ago, he opened Lers Ros in the Tenderloin and quickly earned a devout following of locals, chefs, and food critics alike for serving the most vibrant and authentic Thai food many have had outside of Thailand. As Silargorn is quick to point out, that is entirely the point.
SF Weekly: How did you end upcoming to the States?
Silargorn: I came on a student visa for art school. While I was doing that I was also working in a Thai restaurant as a cook. But it was not real, real Thai food in the restaurant I was cooking — in most of San Francisco, I can say the cooking is not like real Thai cooking. So when I had the opportunity to open my own business I wanted to cook the way I learned, the way I knew how.
What is real, authentic Thai food to you?
The ingredients we put into it. Everything is homemade. It's not like we use things from a can or buy curry from the store. We make the curry from scratch.
What do most of your customers order?
Eighty percent of customers order the papaya salad. The garlic quail (#10) is a common Thai snack, deep-fried with garlic and pepper. People also order the duck salad (#25), larb phed yang. It is a big chunk of roasted duck mixed with rice and chili powder with a lot of fresh lime. Tom yum koong (#28) soup, I make over and over again all day. Oh, and #62 is very famous: Pork belly with basil, stir-fried until crispy. It's called pad kra prow moo krob.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
I like #93, nuer pad prik. I like to eat beef, and this one we make with homemade chili sauce. We grind fresh chili and it makes all the difference. You can smell the difference, and taste it, too.