“The Land of Smiles” is an apt name for Thailand. Truly, the people are friendly, the climate is warm, the temples are glistening, the food is spicy. Your chances of getting grins from strangers on the streets of Bangkok or Chiang Mai are very high. The chances that you’ll be the one smiling are even higher.
Walking into Kiin Thai in Manhattan’s East Village is no different. The crisp interior and friendly waitstaff are only a pleasant introduction to the real star of the show: delectable — and authentic — Thai food. There’s no mediocre pad thai here, rather everything is served with genuine flavors and gorgeous plating.
The ham fried rice comes in a halved pineapple. Pad thai noodles are housed in a thin egg crepe that I haven’t seen since I was in Asia; in some countries, this is called “wrapped egg.”. Keffir lime, lemongrass, creamy coconut milk, and fishy overtones dominate the plate in the best way possible.
“People are traveling more now, they’re citizens of the world,” Kitmahawong explains.
Once she had the idea for Kiin, she connected a chef from her hometown and started serving up NorthEastern Thai cuisine from the Isan region. To her delight, the food was a hit.
“It was risky for me,” Kitmahawong says. “Here, we want to serve things that Thai people love to eat. When I saw that many different people loved it, I was so surprised.”
Of course, with authenticity comes spice. Think streaks of red in a bowl of tom yum soup brimming with prawns, dried chiles in the mango mojito, “Sai Oua” spicy pork sausage served with ginger. It’s okay, though: the mango sticky rice at the end of the meal is sure to cool down your palate. The cachaca, palm sugar, strawberry, lemongrass and lime cocktail helps, too.
In Thai, kiin means “eat.” It’s an apt name for a place where you’ll eat and eat and not want to stop.