Tom Silargorn, owner of the three-year-old Lers Ros, generally regarded as one of San Francisco's best Thai restaurants, initially came to San Francisco to pursue an education in art. But the lack of what he deems "real Thai food" in the city inspired him to show San Francisco what it was missing. In part I of SFoodie's interview with Silargorn, we talked about how he got into cooking and what he thinks his best dishes are.
SFoodie: Being in this location, there are a lot of Thai restaurants nearby. Even though you consider your restaurant to be different, do you view them as competition?
Silargorn: I follow a different thinking. Most people think if there are a lot of Thai restaurants it would be hard to open another one, but I don't think like that. If you have a lot of Thai and other Asian restaurants in one area, then people will come to the area to check it out. It becomes a destination. But I try do better than other restaurants.
I understand you're opening a new location.
We are, in three weeks! [Ed. note: At the time of the interview, it was three weeks away -- Lers Ros appears to be opening in a few days.] I'm working very hard on that. I decided I wanted to open a second location two years ago, but you have to work with the city, with construction - everything takes time. I already had the space in mind. I have a lot of customers from Hayes Valley, so I wanted to open there. I like the area, and it's not too far between this location and that one. I'll have to be able to go to both places easily, and if the restaurant was in a different area, it would be hard to control what happens in each of them.
Who is going to be cooking in the new restaurant?
Most of the people who will be working there are from this restaurant. Everyone has to work here first. I teach them how to make every single dish; I teach them the way of the restaurant.
How is the new location going to be different from this one?
Everything is the same: same menu, same price. Just a better location!
What do you like to cook at home?
I don't cook if I'm not working. I like to just stay home and relax. If I'm working I work, if I'm at home I'm never thinking about the restaurant. With only one day off, I go out to eat.
Where do you like to go?
I like Japanese. I like to eat sushi. Ebisu on 9th St. is probably my favorite place.
Is there any food you can't live without?
I also like steak. But like I said, I don't cook if I'm not at the restaurant. I go to Harris'.
In part 3 of this interview, Silargorn gives SFoodie his recipe for Lers Ros's popular tom yum koong.