Kiin Thai Kitchen
When the restaurant formerly known as Kiin Thai Underground Kitchen first opened in early 2018, it was in a small 20-seat space on Mount Eden Road. The food was prepared in the downstairs kitchen, hence its moniker – but this changed when it moved to its current site just over two kilometres away.
Kiin Thai Kitchen dropped the “Underground” and is now in a light, bright and high-ceilinged space in a busy block on Dominion Road.
The restaurant has built a loyal following for its fragrant, punchy dishes that are made with love and dedication by head chef Somkiat Chattai and his wife, Nitchapha Kasanthia. Chattai, who has over 40 years of kitchen experience, originally hails from Prachin Buri in central Thailand, while Kasanthia comes from Nakhon Rachasima in Thailand’s Isan region.
Chattai makes all his dishes, marinades and sauces from scratch, busy every service at his wok tossing signatures such as pad Thai or pad krapao with plenty of fresh basil.
It’s a family business; Kornwit “Bon” Kunthip opened the restaurant with his partner Rangsima “Yok” Chatthai (Somkiat is Yok’s dad), and the pair – a business analyst and accountant, respectively – are in charge of day-to-day logistics.
Kiin’s menu is predominantly from the central Thailand region, incorporating a balance of sour, sweet, creamy and salty flavours. Some dishes are from Isan region in Thailand’s north-east, including papaya salad, larb and nam tok (grilled-beef salad).
The som tum platter is popular – a large dish with papaya salad (either a classic som tum or som tum plu ra, with Thai anchovies and pickled crab) surrounded prettily by chicken wings, sliced pork ham, pickled cabbage, pork crackling, vermicelli and crescents of hard-boiled egg.
There’s a “classic wok and pot” section with noodles, curries and stir-fries; a street food section; and seasonal specials. Order the fried snapper in Kiin chilli sauce and you’ll be treated to an expertly cooked whole fish doused in a rich, tamarind-laced sauce that packs a good amount of heat.
The krapao is a street-cart favourite and the large version eschews vegetables to make spicy fried pork mince the star, served on jasmine rice and topped with two fried eggs. And any meal is off to a good start with the fried tom yum wontons, topped with minced pork and drenched in a sour and sweet sauce that gets your salivary glands working.
The mango sticky rice has a following all of its own – Kiin has been known to sell upwards of 110 servings of the traditional Southeast Asian dessert a day via pre-order and takeaway. It’s infused with butterfly pea flower here, which gives the rice a beautiful purple tone, and served with juicy ripe mango and sweetened coconut cream for pouring over the top.
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