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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kin Shop Check-In (New York, NY)

Braised Beef Rib Stew

It's been a few months since I last wrote about a meal at Kin Shop, Chef Harold Dieterle's "contemporary Thai" restaurant in the West Village, in part because the menu changes so little from visit to visit and we often gravitate towards the same dishes -- i.e. standards like the Massaman goat and duck breast with roti, which have been on the menu from the outset. But a little over a year after opening, the time is ripe for an update.

Kin Shop has weathered its first year in fair form, though Chef Dieterle's attentions seem to have turned elsewhere. (He and business partner Alicia Nosenzo have plans to open Marrow in Brooklyn, next year, and we haven't seen either at Kin Shop for some time.) We've found lunch to be hit or miss, but previously reported visits in October 2010, December 2010, and March 2011 don't make a secret of the fact that we still really enjoy this restaurant for dinner.

Our most recent dinner was no different. Not everything Justin and I tried this time was as standout as the food we've sometimes had in the past, but all of it was well made. The stirfry of aquatic vegetables, a medley of water spinach, water chestnuts & watercress, was more heavily seasoned with oyster sauce than it has been in the past -- perhaps just a coincidental take by the chef who happened to make the dish the night we went. I personally prefer a more minimally seasoned stirfry so the wonderful flavors of vegetables can take the main stage. Also, the first time we had the dish, the water chestnuts were delectable: fresh and sweet and crisp, a different vegetable completely from the nearly flavorless canned or jarred versions more commonly found in NYC restaurants. (Fresh water chestnuts are a massive pain in the a*s to work with, so very few restaurants use them in the U.S.) On the four or five subsequent visits when I've ordered this side dish, though, the water chestnuts have not been fresh, sadly. Overall, it is still an enjoyable, home-style preparation, but not necessarily a highlight of the menu as it was the first time.

Stirfry of Aquatic Vegetables

A newer offering of Bibb salad with Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds & lady apple-Szechuan peppercorn vinaigrette was solid and likable without being particularly memorable. Bibb lettuce was tender, buttery and fresh, apples were nice and crisp, and everything was moderately dressed with a pleasantly spicy dressing. There were only a few stray leaves of Brussels sprouts. 

Bibb Salad

I forcibly pried myself away from ordering the Massaman goat, one of my favorite dishes in the neighborhood and a joy to eat when the weather is cold. But I ordered a somewhat similar in spirit special of braised beef rib stew with boiled peanuts, baby spinach & paenang curry (pictured at the top of this post). The "stew" was essentially a pile of huge, meaty beef ribs that would satisfy any bone-gnawing Neanderthal. The ribs -- fall-off-the-bone tender and wonderfully sticky with collagen -- were very minimally seasoned by themselves, but they came in a pool of well made, well balanced, authentically flavored, coconut-milk-based curry sauce with just enough of a spicy kick to keep diners on their toes. A light sprinkling of fried onion and al dente boiled peanuts added some textural contrast to an otherwise soft dish.  

Justin's northern Thai style curry noodle with braised brisket, cucumber, peanuts, fresh herbs also leaned traditional. A bowl of soupy, coconut-milk-based yellow curry -- which would pass muster in any non-fusion Thai restaurant -- included small chunks of tender, almost gelatinous meat and came with a separate plate of ingredients for the diner to add himself: thick, round noodles that looked like Chinese lai fen; carrots; mung bean sprouts; cucumber; crushed peanuts; and lime. There wasn't a lot of the pungent fish sauce or mouth-blasting heat you might find in a similar dish from a Thai street stall, but Dieterle always covers his butt by describing his dishes as being made in such-and-such style; he makes no claim to authenticity. I appreciate the honesty. 

Northern Thai-Style Curry Noodles

Mix-ins

The desert menu isn't much more developed than it was a year prior: A small selection of ice cream and sorbets remain the only offerings. But this isn't a count against the restaurant as far as I'm concerned. For me, the supremely tender braises are voluptuous and rich enough to be dessert. 

All in all, Kin Shop seems to be in good health. It's busy enough without being too obnoxiously trendy to walk into most nights. It's consistently good at dinner time. There's little on the current menu that will wow a seasoned New York City diner -- bring back the amazing Chiang Mai sausage & steamed duck egg and the roasted bone marrow, please!! -- but it's solid enough that I suspect it'll be a West Village fixture for many, many years to come. It's one of those places I consider myself fabulously lucky to live near. 


469 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10011
(212) 675-4295
www.kinshopnyc.com

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