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Kin Shop: An American Chef Does Thai

Kin Shop opened quietly last fall, the second restaurant of Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle. It sits hardly noticed on 6th avenue, between and around delis and nail salons, specialty stores and pet grooming shops. Not until New York Times’ restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s glowing review did Kin Shop blow up into a foodie hotspot, visited by trendy young folk and big celebrity names, alike. On a frigid Friday night, wait times for tables at the bar were about 90 minutes and a wait list wasn’t even started for dining room tables.

The restaurant is small, announced only by a discrete blue awning amongst many blue awnings. Inside, the dining room features zen-like decor, cool colors and modern art. At the back is a small bar, mostly used for dining room overflow, and an open kitchen accompanied by a dining bar, prime spots for foodies interested in watching the kitchen work. Everything about Kin Shop is relaxed – unfussy design, casual crowd, family-style dining, well-priced bottles of wine.

Kin, in Thai, means “to eat” and that’s exactly what the diverse crowd has come to do at Kin Shop. The menu is contemporary Thai, modern riffs on traditional dishes. Though there are a few specials nightly, expect to see on a regular basis a succulent braised goat massaman curry, flat and wide wonton noodles with chicken, a jungle curry with bamboo shoots, soups, salads, and the house specialty grilled prawns. The garam masala and tomato soup is the perfect way to kick off a meal on a chilly night: smooth and creamy, intensely aromatic, and packing just enough to spice to warm you from the inside out. An equally delicious alternative is the steamed pork meatball soup, vaguely reminiscent of matzoh ball soup, done Thai. The small pork meatballs are succulent and juicy, salty in the toothsome and well-seasoned broth. The house grilled shrimp are served for $4/shrimp, heads-on, simply grilled; the taste is briny and fishy – not for those squeamish around overtly ‘seafood-y’ seafood.

The curries are the way to go – the braised goat massaman is sublime. Impossibly rich and silky, the curry tastes authentic and fresh; the meat is tender, falling off the bone with little resistance, and not too much oil is sitting around, pooling at the top as is too often seen in the curries of take-out containers. Not a curry person? Try the stir-fried wide wonton noodles, served with chicken sausage, broccoli rabe, and oyster sauce. Though just a touch too sticky, the dish is hearty and satisfying, packed with interesting flavors, and made fun by the knobby texture of delicious chicken sausage nuggets. For riskier eaters, the kitchen offers blazing spice with the Spicy Duck Laab Salad or offal with the roasted bone marrow and duck tongue specialties. Don’t hold your breath for a good dessert – with only one option on the menu besides ice creams and sorbets, it’s slim pickins and best to fill up with the savory starters and main courses.

Kin Shop is a great place to eat – warm and casual with interesting food and interesting people. Is it awe-inspiring? Worthy of top 10 lists? Deserving of the maddening hype? Probably not. There are better restaurants in New York. Kin Shop’s novelty is that it’s both Thai and gourmet, a surprising rarity in a city with so many ethnic eateries. If you succeed in getting a reservation, good for you and you’ll most likely very much enjoy your meal. If you don’t, try not worry, you haven’t missed the greatest new spot of 2010.

Perfect For: trendy eaters, hot spot trackers, B-list celebrity spotting, the adventurous type, Top Chef fanatics, haute hippies

Kin Shop on Urbanspoon

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