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HED-114.jpg Kimpton Hotel Enso

San Francisco’s Kimpton Hotel Enso opens fine-dining Thai restaurant

The experience inside Hed II in San Francisco’s Japantown is centered on an 11-course tasting menu

Hed II — the new Kimpton Hotel Enso restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown — is dialed up to eleven. The fine-dining Thai restaurant, led by restaurateur Naruephon “Billie” Wannajaro (Hed Very Thai), features an 11-course menu starting at $169 per guest.

The new dining experience opened on May 3 and replaces the former Mum’s restaurant. With this project, Wannajaro is pursuing an expanded, upscaled version of what he was doing downtown with Hed Very Thai.

“Our broker who found the space for our first restaurant in downtown San Francisco reached out to us,” Wannajaro said. At the time, she had not been looking on her own for space in Japantown but liked the Kimpton space and opportunity. The next step was finding the right chef.

“We interviewed Chef Piriya “Saint” Boonprasan back in Thailand when we were going to open a restaurant, but at that time we were not looking for a Thai chef,” Wannajaro said, explaining that her restaurants in Bangkok offer American or international cuisine as a differentiator. “But, we were impressed with his skills in Thai food so we always kept in contact with him.”

On the flip side, when launching eateries stateside, Wannajaro prefers to bring Thai cuisine and culture to Americans. When the Kimpton Hotel Enso project germinated, she reached out to Boonprasan, who established a reputation for quality at Bo.Lan. and Michelin-starred Saawaan: both acclaimed fine-dining restaurants in Bangkok.

Together, the two have tackled an ambitious feat. Hed 11’s 11-course tasting menu is a combination of cuisine from every part of every region of Thailand, Wannajaro said. It is a unique concept in Japantown, if not all of San Francisco. Service is khao kang (curry over rice)- style. Guests receive rice bowls and another six Thai dishes—courses four through nine—together at once. This expansive phase of the meal treats guests to flavors and ingredients such as banana chicken curry, cabbage salad with tiny fried shrimp, fried catfish, crab salad dip, and more.

The menu, which will rotate with the seasons, presently includes dishes such as the traditional Thai summer delicacy kanom jeen sao nam (Thai rice noodle fish curry) with scallops — a Boonprasan signature dish, red curry chicken, and beef curry puffs. The experience ends with two dessert dishes, one of which is passion fruit Thai custard cheesecake.

In Wannajaro’s expereicne at Hed Very Thai, San Francisco has a great demand for gluten- and dairy-free dishes, so most of the menu at Hed 11 fits that bill.

As a hotel restaurant, Hed 11 is also tasked with breakfast service. Wannajaro explained that they are still working on the à la carte breakfast menu. The bar features spirits with Thai ingredients and inspiration, but the team is still working to finalize the drink offerings.

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