There’s been a proliferation of Thai eateries the past few years, a wave that has really elevated the cuisine’s profile above the standard, one-or-two-per-neighborhood takeout joint that’s decorated like a massage therapist’s office. With the opening of Pim Techamuanvivit’s Kin Khao, inside the Parc 55 Hotel, Thai food has gotten a lot sexier and more regionally focused a trend that continued with Saap Ver. Call it Second Wave Thai, if you will. (We’re operating on the assumption that pad thai is now as exotic as a hot dog for most people ‘round these parts.)
And apart from the fairly unexciting Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe and King of Thai Noodle, pasta-heavy North Beach is sorely lacking in noodles. Replacing the latter at 1268 Grant Avenue is Tamarind Hall, a Thai restaurant that clearly wants to balance the demands of a lively atmosphere with a desire to put out quality food.
It’s still early yet, but we checked it out and things seem promising. There’s plenty of street snacks, including an Salt-N-Pepa calamari, Sai Ua and Namprik Noom (a grilled Northern Thai pork or chicken sausage with spicy pepper relish, pork cracklings, seasonal herbs, and stick rice) and an $8 curry-and-roti dip that’s luscious and sweet. Laab moo ($12), a salad of minced pork enhanced by lime and lemongrass and served in lettuce cups, has an herbaceous depth you won’t find from the local takeout joint — and it makes a good benchmark by which to adjudicate matters.
While menus at Thai restaurants can often be novella-length, Tamarind Hall pared its mains down to a list of only two dozen or so, only a few of which are safe noodle dishes. The polychromatic yum kai dao ($9), a fried egg salad topped with greens and edible flowers, is pleasantly satiating. If there’s one drawback — and this may apply more to people visibly not of Thai descent — it’s that Tamarind seems hesitant with the heat. However rich it was to begin with, the curry would have benefited from a heavier hand with the chili.
Best of all, there’s a full bar, serving such beers as Deschutes Chainbreaker — $8 for a pint, $18 for a pitcher, and $35 for a tower — and a list of $8-$10 cocktails that lean hard on citrus and ingredients like tamarind syrup. Take the Siamese G-Spot, for instance, a mix of Cazadores Blanco tequila, St. Germain, lychee juice, and grapefruit juice. It’s party time. And the only pun on the word Thai that could be better than a drink called Thai-Me-Up is an extraordinarily spicy curry called That Was Way Harsh, Thai.
Tamarind Hall, 1268 Grant Ave., 628-444-3158 or tamarindhall.com