The Dining Cryptographer: Koh Samui & The Monkey and Ton Kiang (San Francisco, CA)
Another day, another pair of restaurant reviews. As before, the first is within walking distance and the second requires a cab ride.
Koh Samui & The Monkey is probably the best Thai restaurant in San Francisco right now. And it's cheap, too. The standard Thai dishes, like pad thai and the basic curries, are delicious, but my recommendation is to try something you've never had before. The salads are all different, and all really good; my favorite is the grilled beef crying tiger salad. The pumpkin curry is also delicious, as is the asparagus in garlic sauce. The dinner menu has more entrée-sized portions than the lunch menu: the fish dishes are all good, but the grilled meats aren't all that special. If you go today, the special is soft-shell crab. Dessert isn't the place's strong suit; the coconut rice with mango is the best of what they have to offer. (415 Brannan St, 415- 369-0007, www.kohsamuiandthemonkey.com)
Ton Kiang isn't close; it's way down Geary at 22nd. The dim sum menu is fairly standard Hong Kong style; it's good, and there's a lot of variety, but you're better off going to the much closer Yang Sik. The reason I want you to make the drive to Ton Kiang is the Hakka dishes. Try the chicken baked in salt or the minced squab with lettuce. If you want something really traditional, though, get one of the clay pot dishes. I especially enjoyed the roasted duck with squash, and the rock cod with dried tofu. Ton Kiang also serves the more traditional Chinese food dishes you find in American restaurants; I like the twice-cooked pork with cabbage and chili bean sauce. The Hakka people come from southeastern China; look them up on Wikipedia. (5821 Geary Blvd, 415-752-4440, www.tonkiang.net)
Last year's Tuesday reviews: