A revelatory dinner at Kin Shop
Friday, May 11, 2012 at 7:21AM
The Lady Who Lunches in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary, Restaurant reviews

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

Look, I'm going to be brutally honest.  And you may not like it.  But, here goes:  When Kin Shop - a Thai restaurant opened by Top Chef's first winner and Perilla Restaurant founder, Harold Dieterle (read: white man) - first opened its doors about 1.5 years ago, nothing particularly spoke or prompted me to add it to my "Top 10 dying-to-try-restaurants" list.  Or even my "Top 20," for that matter.  Why?  Because, 'Dieterle is white!  What could he possibly know about Thai cuisine?  I mean, c'mon, this isn't Nebraska we're talking about here, folks.  This is NEW YORK CITY!  Certainly you can find a Thai restaurant with a Thai chef within that 10 block radius that you're sitting/standing in right now...

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago:  Emily and I were eating and drinking our way through the maze of culinary stations at Toast to the Children when we happened upon Kin Shop's table.  Emily, a Chicago native, was immediately drawn to the sous chef's 'Cubs baseball cap.  That was all it took for her to initiate a conversation with Chef Eric, who proceeded to explain, in artful detail, his scallop hors d'oeuvre.   "Oh my gosh," she squealed, "scallops generally aren't my favorite, but this preparation is delicious!"  Before moving on to the next station, Emily grabbed a Kin Shop business card and shook Chef Eric's hand, promising that the next time they'd see one another would be at the restaurant. 

Always a woman of her word, Emily kept her promise to Chef Eric.  She snagged a dinner reservation and insisted that I join.  8pm on a Thursday evening is a bit late for me but, after having been impressed by Chef and his scallops at Toast to the Children, I was intrigued enough to accept Emily's invitation.

Upon arrival, Kin Shop was bustling.  There was not a vacant seat or table in the entire restaurant!  While we waited for our other three guests, Emily and I hung out by the entrance and quizzed the friendly hostess about her favorite items on the menu.  "Oh my gosh," she exclaimed, "there is so much that I love!  Where do I begin?" 

Having dined at Kin Shop's previous occupant, Philippe Chow Express, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior transformation.  Where there was once gaudy black and red hues now showcased Dieterle's signature white-washed walls and minimal, yet casually sophisticated decor.  

Photo credit: Sip, Chat, ChowWhen the other ladies arrived, the five of us were promptly seated.  And, within moments, menus were distributed, water glasses were filled, and cocktail orders were taken.  

To whet my appetite, I chose to begin with the "Shiso Crazy" cocktail, a combination of vodka, maraschino, passion fruit puree, lemon juice, and prosecco.  Sweet, tart 'n tangy, and effervescent...without the slightest taste/burn of alcohol!  Now that, to me, spells beverage success.

"Shiso Crazy" cocktailIn following what the hostess had mentioned were her favorite dishes, our table chose to split various plates, "family style."  There were just too many delicious-sounding items that we *had* to have!

Fried Pork & Crispy Oyster Salad

Served atop a bed of sliced celery and pickled red onions were, what I'd like to call, "chicken fried" whole oysters and chunks of succulent pork.  The menu does not coin the oysters and pork as being "chicken fried."  Broken peanuts, micro-greens, and mint-chili-lime vinaigrette finished the dish.  

If you hate raw celery, then I'm not so sure that I'd recommend ordering this salad.  However, you could eat around the celery, as there are plenty of delicious morsels to sample.  I particularly loved the "crust" on both the pork and the oysters, as it reminded me of that on chicken-fried-steak.   Additionally, I found the multitude of textures - crunchy celery and onions, chewy oysters, moist pork - to be flirty, creative, and adventurous.

Spicy Duck Laab Salad

Romaine hearts were amply topped with juicy ground duck, toasted rice, and plenty of spicy red chili flakes and grinds.

This dish reminded me of a Korean ssam and/or the "chicken lettuce wraps" made famous at PF Chang's.  However, unlike the latter, this verison was much spicier and, because duck (a much fattier bird than chicken) was used, way more juicy. 

This salad was a huge hit at our table.  Even Emily, a self-proclaimed duck hater, could not get enough!

Fried Broccoli & Chinese Sausage

*Forgive me for not posting a photo.  The one that I have on-hand is blurred and does not do this incredible dish any justice, whatsoever. 

A mound of crispy, fried broccoli florets were tossed in a young coconut-gooseberry chutney and sweet fermented plum vinegar.  Chinese sausage "coins" added a welcome smokiness, depth, and meaty texture.

This, hands down, was the most popular item at our table.  So much so, that we ordered another helping!  Trust me when I say that this dish will turn any broccoli hater in to a lover. 

Grilled Prawns

At a whopping $4/prawn, we only ordered one piece per lady.  Head-on prawns were grilled to perfection and served alongside a halved lime and sweet/tangy black pepper sauce. 

While the prawns were tasty, there was nothing particularly unique or life-changing about them.  Would I order these shellfish again?  No way, Jose.  Especially not at $4 a pop! 

Pan Seared Tile Fish 

The skin atop this mild tile fish filet was seared to a crisp, honey-hued golden brown.  Surrounded by a moat of chu chee curry sauce dotted with crayfish, bamboo, and bok choy, the fish took center stage.

Of the entrees that we ordered, this was the table's favorite.  While the fish was pristinely fresh and cooked perfectly, it was the subtly sweet, creamy, and fragrant chu chee curry sauce that all five of us fought over.  Literally.  Had straws been handed out, there is no doubt in my mind that each one of us would have voluntarily sucked this curry sauce down as if it were a milkshake. 

Northern Thai Style Curry Noodle

A mustard yellow-tinged "pool" of Northern Thai-style curry was filled with 2-3 chunks of slightly-overcooked beef brisket, cucumbers, peanuts, and a small tangle of the thickest noodles that I've ever seen.

While I loved the flavorful curry sauce and the starchy, thick noodles, I was very disappointed by the dainty portion of brisket.  Even though it was slightly overcooked.

Steamed Sticky Rice

Wrapped up like a birthday present in banana leaves was a square-shaped mound of packed, sticky white rice. 

While some at the table felt that it was too gummy and gelatinous, I thoroughly enjoyed the sticky rice.  For the rich curry sauce-based entrees that we ordered, I found this to be the ideal accompaniment, because it did not break up in to individual rice kernels and sink to the bottom of the said dish.

Crispy Roti & a Tasting of Condiments

FYI:  The crispy roti and the condiments do not come together.

I'm sorry, but what's NOT to love about roti?  Seriously.  One of the girls at my table said it best, "This tastes like a flattened croissant.  A croissant pancake!!"  Buttery, doughy, crispy on the outside, warm...just think of any delicious adjective you can muster, and it could probably be used to describe this sinfully delicious bread.

The condiments were interesting and flavorful but, at $8 for a "tasting" of four, I found them to be an unnecessary rip-off.  Trust me, folks, the roti is delicious enough on its own, or when dipped in to your entree's sauces.

Ice cream trio:  (from left) Galangal, Thai Iced Tea, Thai Coffee-Chocolate

Served atop, what tasted like, crunchy coconut cookie crumbs, were three homemade scoops of Thai-inspired ice creams. 

While each flavor was pleasant, my favorite was the Thai Iced Tea, which also happens to be one of my favorite drinks in the entire world. 

Roasted Pineapple Financier

Think along the lines of a fancified Pineapple Upside Down Cake...

Unlike the traditional French financier, this version was much more dense.  Flecked with caramelized chunks of pineapple, the rectangular cake sat atop a zesty passion fruit sauce and was accompanied by toasted coconut shreds and a scoop of calamansi sorbet.  

Had the cake, itself, been a tad bit moister, this would have been the world's most delicious dessert. 

Coconut Cream Cake

Three layers of coconut cake were sandwiched by and iced with rich, sweet whipped buttercream.  Toasted coconut shreds completed the picturesque cake.

While I found the cake, itself, to be moist enough, I thought that the dessert, overall, was too sweet.   

 

To conclude

Shame on me for initially stereotyping - maybe even mocking - a white man's Thai restaurant.  Because, frankly, Kin Shop knocked my fcuking socks off.  I walked in with some hesitation, but walked out proclaiming that this was the best meal I've had in recent memory ("bo ssam" at Momofuku Ssam Bar NOT included). 

From its friendly and knowledgeable staff - creative cocktails list - casually sophisticated atmosphere...to the kick ass food, Kin Shop wins!  Bravo, tens times over, Mr. Dieterle!  I cannot wait to return.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The *very satisfied* Lunch Belle

Article originally appeared on The Lunch Belle (http://www.thelunchbelle.com/).
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