Almost every city has a restaurant open late enough that service industry clientele flock to after their shifts as cooks or waitstaff at their restaurant closes. It’s always a good restaurant to seek out: if chefs eat there, then it must be really great. Since 2008 when it first opened in the shady Tenderloin, that restaurant is Lers Ros, a Thai restaurant.
Most Thai places here in the U.S. serve very similar dishes with curries and pad thai noodles, all focusing on spicy dishes with lots of added sweetness to placate the Western palate (also note that many of these curries are made with jarred pastes adding to the ubiquitous flavors across the restaurants). Owner-Chef Tom Silargorn, born and raised in Thailand, opened Lers Ros to showcase authentic Thai flavors featuring salty, sour, sweet and spicy flavors. His menu is lengthy and features many authentic dishes typically not found at other Thai restaurants.
Along with his wife, Silargron opened a second branch of Lers Ros in Hayes Valley last year. Both restaurants are always busy seating about 50 diners, but the newer branch offers more drink options, such as a curated wine list and sakes. Long on our list to try, we finally made it the Hayes Valley location:
We opted to order a couple of Singha beers on this warm spring evening. The server brought a tray with the bottled beer and chilled long glasses which she poured the beer into:
The menu literally has over 100 dishes and could be quite daunting to figure out what to eat. Our waitress was very helpful in telling us about her favorite items and the what the most popular dishes are. We started with the Pad See-Ew made with pan-fried wide rice noodles, served with a choice of chicken, pork, beef prawns or seafood. We opted for beef, and the steaming hot noodles were perfectly cooked offering a soft and slightly chewy texture. The slightly sweet soy flavor complemented the still crunchy Chinese broccoli and beef:
We ordered some Jasmine Steamed Brown Rice to eat with the meal. The server came with a small covered rice bowl and spooned out the rice onto our plates to eat with the rest of the meal. The Pad Kra Prow Moo Krob made with stir-fried pork belly with crispy skin and basil leaves was our favorite dish of the evening. The belly meat was soft, and the blistered skin was super crispy offering interesting textures in the same bite:
We ordered the catfish filet version of the Pla Duk Pad Phed which turned out to be our spiciest dish of the evening. The Thai style batter fried fish is stir-fried with a deeply red house-made chili paste, kaffir lime leaves and young pepper corn that are still on the stem. The dish was full of flavor and spicy contrasts:
The portions are very generous, so we ended up taking home the leftovers of the noodles and fish (we polished off the pork belly in a timely manner). WE pretty much determined that three dishes between two people is more than enough for a meal.
We were on a mission to get through the menu, so we decided to return and sit at the bar (our favorite place to eat). They are serious about wine here, and we ordered this reasonably priced German Reisling which paired with dinner quite nicely, especially since we ordered all items extra spicy:
As much as we wanted to order the pork belly again, we decided to try other items on the menu and started with the Larb Phed Yang, a very tasty roast duck salad. We used the lettuce wedges to create duck salad “cups”:
We also ordered the Kaeng Keaw Wan Talay, a medley of seafoods (calamari, fish, prawns) with spicy green curry, coconut milk, bamboo shoots and basil to try out a curry dish. It was a good version of a green curry where the delicious striped Thai eggplants surprisingly still offered some crunch:
Next we thought we would try the boar dish from their Thai specials section, the Pad Ped Moo Pah. The stir-fried boar contained more of the young green peppercorn and spicy chili paste. It was a good dish to try once, but the meat was a little chewy and gelatinous in texture but tasty nonetheless (next time, we will stick with the pork belly):
We asked our server how to pronounce Lers Ros and she explained that the the “s” should be replaced by a “t.” The two words should be pronounced together fast and sounds close to “Lairt-Rote,” with a soft “t” at the end of each syllable. We may never get it right, but it doesn’t matter since we know where we can go for some unique, authentic Thai food in the City.