I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kin Shop: Omg, the dude from Top Chef opened another place

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Just because you are eating Asian food, does not mean you need chopsticks

“Just give me a pair of chopsticks and I will be ready to go!”

This is what a middle aged Caucasian lady (cough, yuppie, cough) uttered when I was about to leave Kin Shop. I think she even glanced over to our table as if to see if I concurred with her statement and validated that apparently, eating food from the Asiatic region requires the usage of chopsticks in order to enjoy it. It is like eating Mexican food I need a stack of tortillas in order to get the full Mexican experience. That is the end of my miniature rant; I just thought it was amusing.

For Mother’s Day, I decided to go with the family to Kin Shop, the newly opened Thai restaurant by Harold Dieterle, the winner of the first Top Chef and already successful restaurant Perilla. Thai food is often all too synonymous with Pad Thai, sour soup, watery curries both ranging from the flavorless to colon-burning spice and the enemy cuisine of anyone with a serious peanut allergy. Since I do not have a peanut allergy and I enjoy a good amount of spice, Kin Shop seemed perfect. Also they had reservations open for lunch the past weekend. 
Thai Ice Tea
The food is meant to be served family style, which is great for me because it just opens the doors to let me try everything. Also I do not know if this is a constant, but there is also a pre fixe lunch menu option in which you get a choice of an appetizer, main and dessert for 20 bucks. It is a great deal, the portions are not skimped and something to keep in mind for the future. I thankfully have been blessed with a food-loving family so we ended up get 4 appetizers and 4 entrees and got a good feel for the menu. One the table was two condiments, one was a vinegar chili sauce and the other was a chili powder mix. The vinegar chili sauce was not spicy to me at least and offered a nice zing and the chili powder was a potent mix that should be used sparingly those sensitive to heat. Or liberally for those like me that love abuse chilies. 
Condiments, Chili Vinegar and Chili spice mix
The start we went straight Chinese style and started off with soups. First up was the Steamed Pork Meatball Soup with crispy garlic, bok choy shoots and black soy sauce. Dieterle, knows his balls, sorry I had to go there. However, Dieterle at Perilla already is known for the duck meatballs there, the pork meatballs had a lot to live up too. The pork meatballs did not disappoint, the meatballs were soft, tender and had a bit of spiciness to them which was balanced out by a savory broth. The broth was soothing, and would be perfect on a cold winter day, or in my case a nice warm afternoon. Food After the Jump!

Steamed Pork Meatball Soup

The other soup that we got was Garam Masala and Tomato Soup. In it was tofu, mung beans and holy basil. I am not too familiar with holy basil and do not know how it differs in taste from Italain sweet or Thai basil but the soup again was quite successful. The soup was simply a tomato soup that was brought a whole other level. I am not like tomato soup that much because versions I have had of it are usually, too sweet or acidic and taste like watered down ketchup. However, this soup restores my faith in tomato soup and straight up “clowns” Campbells tomato soup. The garam masala plays a pivotal role in this soup, giving it an earthy, floral essence that compliments the tomato flavor that is wonderfully balanced. The tofu offers a bit of a textural contrast as well as the addition of the mung beans. Give me a grilled cheese sandwich and that would have been lunch for me. 

Garam Masala Tomato Soup
 I knew that the Fried Pork and Crispy Oyster Salad was a must order. The first two words of the name are automatic food trigger words for me. I could have eaten a Vegas buffet, belt loosed, swollen gut and I see the words “Fried Pork” I am thinking, “Yeah, I got room for a bite…or more”. The addition of the crispy oysters I was sold. The salad came out just as expected, the fried pork, with the kicker that it was pork belly as well was tender and the oysters were fried perfectly and were still, “wet” inside. The fried goodness was blanketed by celery, peanuts, red onions dressed in a chili-lime vinaigrette which added a nice balance in flavor but I could have done without it, but I guess the greens were needed to classify this as a salad. 

Fried Pork and Crispy Oyster Salad- yeah its under there...somewhere
Finally for appetizers we got the Spicy Duck Laab Salad, which had toasted rice, ground chili, chopped strings beans served in romaine heart cups. They put an emphasis that this is a spicy dish with asterisk and warning from our server and he was right. This dish is what I call Thai spicy, the kind where if you eat a lot of it, everything starts to look like a Pink Floyd video. So for a chili head like me, this was perfect. Once you get past the spiciness of the dish, the dish is very tasty and the spice combination and ground duck works nicely. A fyi, if the dish is spicy, do not drink water to cool it down, it only makes it worse, try a Thai ice tea, it is refreshing and they make a pretty good one here. The appetizers all hit their marks and a good sign of things to come. 

Duck Laab Salad- muy caliente
I did not realize this when ordering but I realized that of the four dishes ordered, three of them were noodles making it a carb heavy meal. I guess that was why I had such an awesome run time the next morning when I ran. First up was the Stir Fried Wide Wonton Noodles. It was fried with a chicken sausage, Thai broccoli rabe and in an oyster sauce. This was my least favorite dish of everything we sampled. Although the noodles were cooked well and the sausage and rabe was tasty, it did not have interplay of spices or stimulated the palate and was a monotonous. It was just okay and felt like getting the vanilla ice cream at a Baskin Robbins. 

Stir Fried Wide Wonton Noodles

However the Stir fried Rice Flakes with Rock shrimp, Cauliflower was delicious. Upon looking on the menu again it also had sawtooth herb and fried garlic, I love garlic but I have no clue what a sawtooth herb is. It just sounds utterly badass and given that I liked this dish, tasty. Rice flakes are just another type of noodle which is similar to the wide wonton noodles but softer and not as wide. The rock shrimp flavored the whole dish and impregnated the briny, seafood flavors into everything. The cauliflower was still crispy; offering a textural contrast to the dish and the fried garlic was not overpowering and was subtle in the dish working out perfectly. 

Stir fried Rice Flakes with Rock Shrimp, Cauliflower

The Egg Noodle and Maitake Mushroom Broth with duck egg, green onions and spinach was a beautifully subtle dish. The egg noodles were cooked nicely, although did not have the Asian “Q”/chewiness to it and was closer to al dente. The broth was not heavily spiced, but it was a concentrate of maitake mushroom flavor. Although the only real protein component of this dish was the poached duck egg, the broth itself provided an intense, mushroom meatiness to the whole dish. The dish was not heavily spiced but showed restraint which added its own complexity and showing less is more. 

Egg Noodle and Maitake Mushroom Broth

Massaman Braised Goat
On the opposite end of the spectrum was the Massaman Braised Goat. The dish had fried shallots, purple yams, mustard greens and toasted coconut. This dish had a lot of flavors and components going on but it eventually all came together. The purple yams by the way I suspect are just taro, but I guess purple yam sounds less scary and threatening than taro. Everything came together is a slurry and the coconut provides an underlying sweetness that integrates nicely with the goat. The goat was tender, succulent and although I am a barbarian and like gaminess, the goat did not have that at all. We got an order of roti which came out fresh and finger burning hot. The roti was flaky, supple and lightly sweetened, could have been eaten on its own but worked well as a sponge for soaking up all that gravy from the braised goat. Originally it was suppose to be an order of roti and jasmine rice, but the rice apparently did not turn out right so they comped us a extra roti which worked out fine.

Roti- Pancake sauce sponge

Finally ending the meal was a scoop of mango sorbet and a scoop of Thai-Coffee chocolate ice cream, not mixed together. The mango was clean and crisp and had chunks of mangos in it which is always a plus. The Thai-Coffee chocolate was borderline chalky tasting and the coffee flavors were very subtle. Overall, Kin Shop dished out some great dishes and they were of adequate size and were not “elf food” in anyway. Many question the authenticity of the food well mainly because Harold is white and not Thai/Asian. I am not going to beat around the bush and pretend that is not what everyone is thinking. However the thing is he is not claiming that it is authentic Thai and the argument of authenticity food is something that can be debated until Two and a Half Men is back on the air (or check the chowhound board for the thread of authentic food). The point is that the food at Kin Shop is without a question Thai. He pays great respect to Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine and produces great food and whether or not this is the food that you will be eating in a dank street in Bangkok is up to you but at Kin Shop, the flavors of Thailand are there and they are good. 

Mango Sorbet and Thai-Coffee Chocolate Ice Cream

Kin Shop
469 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10011

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