Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Goodbye Kin Shop

Last month, news broke that Chef Harold Dieterle was planning to close his last 2 restaurants in NYC, Perilla and Kin Shop. We had visited both a few times over the years and had some fantastic meals, and were truly disappointed to hear that news. The reasons for closing made a lot of sense, but it was still sad for us.

Our table on our first visit to Kin Shop

NYC doesn't have any shortage of Thai restaurants. (Just look at our neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen, with Thai restaurants up and down the avenues.) But Chef Harold did something different with Kin Shop. The food there was amazing, and it was nothing like any of the other Thai restaurants we'd ever been to. Once we heard they were closing before Thanksgiving, we made one last reservation for Kin Shop for my birthday dinner. A bit bittersweet - nice to celebrate and eat good food, but sad that this would be the last time we'd ever get there. So to say a final goodbye, this post is our chance to reminisce about some truly delicious food (from both our goodbye visit and previous visits), and to thank everyone involved in the enterprise for giving us the chance to have a few really wonderful experiences.

One of the dishes everyone always talked about at Kin Shop was the spicy duck laab salad (with toasted rice, ground chili, and romaine hearts), and we got it on every visit. It was a no-brainer given our love of larb (which has definitely been mentioned here before). It had 4 stars for spice level (the highest) on the menu, and they were not playing around when it came to the spice. We never asked them to tone it down, because we wanted the dish the way it was intended to be. Although it was really spicy, it was bearable with multiple glasses of water and other dishes to cool off our tongues. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but it's kind of like that type of spice level where you absolutely feel the kick and need to remedy it, but it tastes so good that you want to eat it that spicy. It was definitely not the painfully spicy level that we will never forget from Jitlada, but a good, very spicy level.

We always ordered some vegetables with our meal, and at our last one, we picked the crispy brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage, persimmon nam prik, and plum vinaigrette. Since we never posted about Kin Shop before (although we always intended to), we could never remember which vegetables we got on previous visits. Looking through old photos, apparently we've always been attracted to this dish, because we've gotten it in some form on every visit.

The time before it was the same preparation but with fried bok choy shoots, and another time it was also brussels sprouts (but with much more prominent amounts of Chinese sausage). This was one of our favorite dishes at our goodbye dinner, so I'd like to say that we kept getting it because we remembered we loved it, but obviously that's not true. Something about the salty Chinese sausage and the sweet/sour flavors of the persimmon nam prik and plum vinaigrette are just so good together, and I'm 99% sure there's no way I could ever replicate this at home.

Our favorite version was probably the one we got on our goodbye visit. The balance of sausage to brussels sprouts was just right. The sprouts were lighter and crispier. The flavors were just so, so good. We will definitely miss these brussels sprouts.

The other vegetable dish that was always on the menu was the stir-fry of aquatic vegetables (water spinach, water chestnuts, and watercress), which we got on an earlier visit. While this was good, the brussels sprouts were better in our opinion. You could probably get a similar dish to this one in other Asian restaurants, but the other vegetable dish would likely be harder to find (not that I've done any research on that fact).

We didn't just get old favorites on our last visit, but devoted 60% of our order to new stuff. This smoked bluefish fried rice with pickled shallots, steamed egg, and crispy garlic was new for us, and it rivaled the brussels sprouts for our favorite dish of the night. The flavors of this fried rice were amazing. Lots of garlic and shallots, the smokiness of the fish, the hot sauce on top, it was all so good. We probably could have each eaten the entire plate ourselves. I found myself wondering how it was possible that we had never gotten it before, but I looked back at old photos of the menu and each other time, it was a different fried rice preparation, never with smoked fish. We were really glad this was on the menu for our goodbye visit and that we got to try something so delicious.

Another new order was the pork and shrimp fritters with spicy carrots, fried herbs, and yellow bean aioli. While this one was tasty, it couldn't compare to the other dishes on the table at the time. The fritters were small fried balls of mixed pork and shrimp, and they were accompanied by fried herbs (seemed mostly like Thai basil to us). They had good flavor, but were on par with other pork and shrimp fritters or dumplings we've had before. They were also fairly tiny. On the side there were some spicy pickled carrots, which I didn't try because my tongue was still on fire from the duck laab, but A said they were indeed spicy. The yellow bean aioli on the side didn't have a ton of flavor in our opinion, but was really good for cooling spice from other dishes!

A good portion of the Kin Shop menu consisted of noodles and curries. On our previous visits, they had also had some specials, but since they were in goodbye mode, there were no specials on our last visit. Having fewer amazing sounding options to choose from actually made our job a little easier, which we appreciated. It also meant we were finally able to try the rock shrimp phat thai, which came with egg crepe, shrimp roe, and traditional garnishes (basically lime, peanuts, and bean sprouts).

This was such a good pad thai version. It tasted so healthy, unlike a lot of the pad thai dishes you get at restaurants, with their thick piles of noodles, sweet sauce, and lack of vegetables other than the bean sprouts on the side. This one had lots of greens. The noodles were soft and not the least bit sticky. The flavor of the rock shrimp was fantastic, and there was a generous amount. This dish was great, and we were sad to only be able to eat it once.

The only other noodle dish that we remember ordering was on our first visit - the black rice noodle with choy sum, hon-shimeji, pattypan squash, and fermented plum sauce. We liked this, but not as much as the pad thai. It was another very healthy noodle, full of vegetables, and the black rice noodles were unique, since you can't really find them in most restaurants. I guess it didn't do as well as some of the other noodle dishes, which is why we never saw it on the menu again.

Throughout all of our visits, we've somehow only tried one curry. That was this braised goat and massaman curry with fried shallots, purple yams, mustard greens, and toasted coconut. We got this on an earlier visit and remember that the curry flavor was so complex and nuanced and tasty. A is more into goat than I am, but I remember thinking that it was tender and fell apart nicely due to all the braising. We probably should have reported back on that meal sooner to capture more details, but better late than never...

Other than the laab, the one thing we remember most about our previous visits was fried chicken. That was some amazing fried chicken. It made such an impression on us and before we got to our goodbye dinner, we had been hoping we could get more fried chicken. Sadly, the fried chicken was always on the specials menu, and since there were no specials, there was no fried chicken. Very sad. I don't remember which visit, but on one of them, we got one of the last orders of fried chicken and we felt really lucky. We would have been so sad if they ran out before us. The most recent time that we got it, it was a Thai style fried chicken and sriracha waffle with coriander nam prik and sweet fish chili sauce, but before that, it was just fried chicken (same preparation) without the waffle.

Honestly, while we were intrigued by the sriracha waffle, we could take it or leave it. The real star was the fried chicken itself. We're not sure what was in the breading, but it was full of umami. The chicken was always super moist, even the white meat. We're really sad we won't be able to get that again. So good.

We're really going to miss Kin Shop. While there are lots of Thai restaurants in the city to visit if we're ever craving Thai food, we always really liked the relaxed neighborhood atmosphere at Kin Shop and the elevated and unique take on Thai dishes. Thanks, Chef Harold, for all the good food and experiences at all of your restaurants, and we wish you the best!

No comments:

Post a Comment