Tucked into a small strip mall in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood is a tiny Thai restaurant with a big reputation. Due to its location — and the confusing sign outside that still lists its former name “Sala Thai” — Tiparos can be a little hard to find, but the flavors in each dish are worth the hunt.
Entering the restaurant is like diving into a whirling color wheel. Bright orange walls bounce off contrasting soft green accents. Multicolored paper umbrellas are suspended from the ceiling, and deep-hued bamboo shoots are scattered throughout the restaurant. The food, too, brings crispy browns and spicy reds into the mix. The overwhelming effect will make you glad the restaurant’s bunkets are comfortable — you’ll want to sit down.
Once you’ve oriented yourself at a table, take a moment to study the menu. You’ll quickly discover that the dozens of items listed all look equally delicious — and they are. Bring your appetite and a friend or two because the best way to enjoy a meal here is by trying as many items as possible.
Here are a few highlights to try:
-Duck Curry (perfectly cooked tender duck, delicious curry sauce)
-Mango Sticky Rice (A Thai speciality that Tiparos tackles with grace)
-Panang Curry (choose any meat with this one — it’s all be good. The curry is heavy on the coconut milk, which makes it an extra creamy dish)
-House Special Potstickers (These come on a bed of lettuce and drowning in a creamy and spicy sauce)
Along with a good friend who isn’t afraid to gorge on Thai food, you’ll need to allot a generous amount of time and patience, too. The food is excellent here, but the service could use some refinement. Though the waiters are quick to take your order, it appears that they forget about you shortly afterwards. Getting the check can take a while — and so can getting a refill of water.
That said, everyone who works there is very kind — even if they are slightly neglectful to their customers. The restaurant has been open for nearly a decade, and the family-run business is packed with friendly service staff. “We just like to make a good meal and see our customers happy,” my waitress explained. That is precisely what Tiparos does, and word has gotten out about it.
Even though they can be a little quiet during the lunch hours, Tiparos is renowned in the Bay Area for their delicious Thai stylings. SFGate hailed the hard-to-find restaurant for their spices and presentation, and the dozens of reviews on Yelp echo these sentiments. After one meal at Tiparos you’ll be singing their praises, too.
If you don’t frequent Hilltop, a trip to Tiparos will serve as a nice change of pace. Stop by for a good meal and a lesson in color theory — you’ll be glad you did.
Tiparos Thai Kitchen
15501 San Pablo Avenue, Richmond
Tel. (510) 223-2933
Monday - Friday, 11 am - 10 pm
Check out their Yelp page here.