The overall flavor of the design suggests a contemporary California restaurant, and indeed executive chef Teerapong Khantawisut’s menu emphasizes “local and seasonal ingredients.” At some point will this be required by law?
The menu offers “Thai beach cuisine” in the “family style” — sharing is encouraged — and includes a raw bar (with oysters and sashimi), a conventional array of appetizers, soups, salads, and main courses, and a large collection of shareable plates grouped under the rubric “street food.” Why the chicken volcano should have been slotted in here isn’t obvious; it’s hardly street food and not all that shareable.
Some of the other offerings here spread themselves around the table much more easily: sizzling spicy beef pad cha ($18), for instance, strips of flank steak tossed with slivers of bell pepper and fresh chile and cubes of Thai eggplant and electrified by kaffir lime leaf and wild ginger. For a slightly sweeter tack, there’s roasted duck in a broad-shouldered but well-behaved coconut-red curry sauce fructified by pineapple chunks, lychee nuts, grapes, and tomato quarters. (Tomato is a fruit, don’t forget!)
And, of course, appetizers and salads are shareable, even if they’re not marked that way. Sizzling spicy prawns ($10) were indeed sizzling — they arrived, like fajitas, on a hot cast-iron platter — and were souped up with chiles, cilantro, lemongrass, and lime. I liked the chunked taro root added as ballast to fresh rolls ($8), otherwise filled with a traditional jumble of tofu, basil, cilantro, and cucumber; the root meat was both creamy and weighty. A similarly moderating influence would have benefited the seafood salad ($14), which was a kind of southeast Asian caesar salad — romaine hearts tossed with prawns, scallops, and calamari — but finished with a spicy lime vinaigrette that was the spiciest vinaigrette I’ve ever had, including my own, and George likes spicy chicken. It isn’t every day you come across a salad that’s almost too hot to eat. This one had me panting like a dog on a blazing August afternoon.
We laughed, we shared, we panted, we thought the dessert menu was a little perfunctory and was the one dimension in which Grand Pu Bah is more Thai than California. Fried bananas ($8) come with beer ice cream — weird, slightly sharp but acceptable. And yet: never again. The beer is Singha, which is always good and is at its best when icy cold, not as actual ice.
GRAND PU BAH
Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Sat.-Sun., 5-10 p.m
88 Division, SF