In a rare example of instant mobilization, EmC sent out a mass email and within hours, a group of 8 of us were gathered together for dinner at Marnee Thai in the Inner Sunset. Even though we had a reservation, we still had to wait about 30 minutes for a table to open up, but I guess since we had a large group, it was to be expected especially on a Friday night.
The restaurant is not very big. It’s narrow, deep, and very simply decorated. Upon entering the restaurant, the entire right wall was covered with reviews, pictures and awards for various pad thai competitions and the kitchen took up the space on the left hand side of the restaurant. While we waited for the table, EmC with everyone’s collective input put in our order so we could get our food soon after we were seated.
The Spicy Angel Wings came out as a plate full of fried chicken wings coated in a spicy chili garlic sauce and topped with some fried basil leaves. They were hot, crispy and just out of the frying pan. They reminded me of San Tung’s “crack” chicken wings, but I think these were saucier and slightly sweeter in taste. They were quite delicious, but I might still give the edge to the “crack” chicken wings.
I had never before had these Homemade Hot Cakes appetizer. They were rice coconut cakes that were grilled in this cask iron skillet-like to give a crispiness to the bottom half of the cakes and served on top were some corn, green onions and pumpkin. These were pretty tasty and quite similar to a Vietnamese version. I think there was just a little bit of flavor lacking, maybe a little fish sauce or something would have made these little cakes even tastier.
With the another cold and windy evening in the city, we were all looking forward to this spicy sour coconut soup with chicken, mushroom, galanga and lemongrass. It really hit the spot and tasted just fine. Not the best I’ve had, but definitely not the worst.
With multiple awards for various Pad Thai competitions hung up on the wall and 30 minutes spent drooling over the action in the kitchen, I was quite anxious to give the Pad Thai a try. We ended up ordering one with shrimp and one with tofu. Even though I would have preferred Pad See Ew, I ended up being very pleased with the Pad Thai. It was definitely saucier than most of versions I’ve had, but it was the intensity of flavor in the noodles that made me realize why it as award-winning. A powerful combination of savory fish sauce with subtle sweetness and punch of tang. It was tasty.
I don’t think I’ve ever had this particular dish before, but the Prad Kaprow was just chopped chicken sauteed with thai basil and fresh chili garlic. It tasted good, but I don’t think it was anything terribly out of the ordinary.
The Hor Mok was another specialty dish that supposedly only gets served on the weekends. It was steamed snapper in a curry mousse with cabbage and Thai Basil and served in a banana leaf. It looked quite interesting. The snapper tasted a little bit dry, and the mousse, which was just a little thicker than a regular curry, was quite flavorful, but I’m not sure what to think of the dish as a whole. It was interesting but I’m not sure it tasted that great.
The Roti dessert was deep fried dough slightly glazed and served with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was hot, crispy and sweet, but I think it was a little bit too oily.
I definitely preferred the Mango Sticky Rice mainly because the fresh cut mangoes added a little bit of sourness to help balance out the sweetness of the coconut milk topped sticky rice. We ordered one with white rice and one with black rice, and I definitely liked the black rice more. It was less sweet and had more of chewiness that I liked.
Overall, the food was pretty tasty. Like many good Thai restaurants, the flavors of the different dishes are all intensely flavorful. I think many of the dishes like the Spicy Angel Wings and Pad Thai had a slightly sweeter slant, but other dishes were on the spicier side yet equally tasty. The food is solid and very reasonably priced, so I definitely think it’s worth checking if only at least to try the Pad Thai.
1243 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
PAFO Ratings for Marnee Thai:
Price 2 stars
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars