3429 SE Belmont
Located in an unassuming house on the main drag of Belmont between the Paradox and the Avalon, Khun Pic's Bahn Thai shrouds itself behind tall plants and a metal gate. Creaky wooden steps lead into a dimly lit interior in search of a clear motif. It seems trapped between time periods, as if time has no meaning here, and indeed it doesn't. My second dinner there, on a busy Friday night, lasted nearly three hours.
This egregiously long wait was no fluke. Khun Pic's has a single server: the husband half of the spousal team that owns the place, and he often waits on two rooms filled with 40 people or more. He seems to take pains to move slowly, and announces frequently, but kindly, that the restaurant is not a place one comes to for speed. His wife is in the kitchen, masterminding each individual order from scratch with the meticulous (slow) grace of a true artist.
It's a charming arrangement, to be sure--you feel like you're the guests at a family friend's dinner party--and only tiresome when you're starving and have to watch the waiter stroll leisurely in and out of the kitchen, bringing trays of heavenly smelling dishes to patrons who are not you. The instant your teeth tear through your perfectly-weighted Tofu Spring Roll appetizers, however, you forget all initial annoyances.
Spring rolls are nothing new in the Thai world, but Khun Pic's rolls take the concept to new levels with a divine, piping hot peanut sauce that works its way into your heart like a new friend. There's also a coconut soup starter, loaded with warm, ginger-fueled creaminess.
The menu at Khun Pic's has a relatively tiny variety of entrees--never more than six on any given day--which ensures maximum care on each individual dish. A green curry arrives in an enormous mound of bell peppers, onions, bamboo strips, and your choice of tofu, chicken, or prawns. Unlike many Thai restaurants, where the curry sauce usually drowns the veggie/meat portion, Khun Pic's understands that the sauce exists to enhance the chunks, and adds extra perfectly cooked, crispy veggies to make things right.
Any Thai restaurant worth its salt will have decent Pad Thai; at Khun Pic's, it's spectacular. Beautiful and shimmering, with deep-fried prawns nestled in its crevices, it taught my mouth a new standard of Pad Thai. For the more adventuresome, Khun Pic's also offer an alternative to the Pad Thai called Drunken Noodles, an explosion of basil-laced, spicy pan-fried noodles and vegetables nestled atop a bed of lettuce.
Khun Pic's crowning achievement, however, is the Garlic Stir Fry. This heart-stopping dish mixes broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower with a thick, garlicky sauce so good it makes your eyes hurt. Make sure you like garlic first, though, because you're going to be breathing and sweating it for a long time after.
Khun Pic's should be reserved for special occasions only. It's on the pricey side ($12-$16 per dish, though the portions are huge enough that you can keep eating them for days after), and extremely time-consuming. You must reserve an evening (Khun Pic's is only open for dinner) when and you and your lover have time to kick back and stare into each other's eyes, waiting patiently for savory edibles to fill the passionate hunger between you.