Kiin – Refined, upscale Thai that’s fit for royalty

 Restaurant Kiin
 Location 326 Adelaide Street West
City Toronto
 Phone (647) 490-5040

Bonjour b*tches,

There’s a relatively uncharted niche of Thai cuisine that’s landed in Toronto by way of Kiin—Royal Thai. Royal Thai is just what it sounds like. It’s opulent. It’s refined. And most importantly, it’s delicious.

Kiin, which means “eat” in Thai, is a partnership between Jeff and Nuit Regular, the husband-and-wife team behind Toronto’s rapidly expanding Thai empire (Pai, Sabai Sabai, Sukhothai), and Janet Zuccarini (Gusto 101, Trattoria Nervosa, Pai).

The bright and elegant dining space. Hard to believe it used to be Khao San Road!

Nuit Regular was raised in Thailand and always dreamed of opening a restaurant where she could share her love of this opulent and less popular form of Thai cuisine with others. Through Kiin’s menu, she has elevated the Thai staples we have come to know (satays, Pad Thai, curries) in an intimate lower-level space that is more mature and refined that its sister restaurants. Kiin incorporates familiar flavours of traditional Thai cuisine (lemongrass, kaffir lime, coconut, coriander) and even imports nearly all of its ingredients from Thailand to perfect the flavour profile of each dish.

Unlike some of the Regular’s other restaurants, Thai street food is absent from this menu. Kiin has a sharable, interactive menu that showcases food fit for a queen. It’s a selection of Royal Thai favourites as well as dishes from Nuit’s childhood.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Regulars while I was dining there one evening. Despite owning a mini-empire of restaurants, the couple is gracious, hospitable and humble. Nuit shared a story about how the yum tua plu (wing bean salad) was once a secret recipe exclusive to the Thai royal family’s staff. She spent several years in culinary school to learn more about her native cuisine and honed the recipes that are now being enjoyed at Kiin.

My guest and I put all of our decisions in the hands of our lovely server, who seemed a moonlighting actress. Her storytelling was on point and she described each dish in detail as it was presented to us. There were far more standouts than mishaps.

The khao tung nah tung–a chunky dip made with shrimp, pork and peanuts.

First to arrive was the khao tung nah tung ($12), a chunky chilled dip made of pork, shrimp and peanuts. While it looked like a satay sauce, its flavours were more multi-dimensional, striking the perfect balance of savoury and sweet. Paired with crispy rice discs, the combination was novel to my palate.

Next up, a true Royal Thai dish: chor laddas ($12) that were almost too beautiful to eat. We were served six flower-shaped dumplings. They were encased in delicate rice wrappers that had been naturally coloured with butterfly pea, which gave them an interesting bluish hue. Baby romaine, bird’s eye chili and other garnishes elevated the plate’s appearance (as if it wasn’t already Instagram-worthy!) After one bite, I was hooked. Bliss bombs exploded dans ma bouche. They contained a unique symphony of peanuts, onion, coconut sugar and picked radish. I could have easily eaten dumplings for the entire meal, but I would have missed out.

Chor laddas. Edible art!

The kang mo yang nam jjim jaew (pork jowl) arrived next and was piled somewhat sloppily on the tiny plate. It was served with Thai kale on ice. Our server explained that the pork had been marinating for more than a day in tamarind and roasted red chili. To fully experience this dish, we were instructed to alternate between the hot and cold components. I much preferred the Thai kale as the pork was too chewy and the sauce was so sweet that it could have been a dessert. It seemed as though Chef Nuit hadn’t perfected this dish quite yet. Feed this one to les cochons.

The pork jowl and Thai kale.
Wing bean salad.

The yum tua plu ($15) came next—a tossed salad containing blanched wing beans (picture wing-shaped green beans) and a healthy dose of spice. It was plated with four soft-boiled egg quarters, which we were instructed to eat after bites of salad to temper the heat. I’d never tasted wing beans before, but learned they are a tropical legume packed with antioxidants. I was pleasantly surprised by the crunchy texture and sweet, grassy flavour that reminded me of asparagus.  Despite the server’s recommendation, I didn’t find the dish too hot to handle.

While the khao yum wasn’t as yummy as it looked, but it was a rainbow of colours.

The next dish, khao yum ($24), ignited all my senses. It arrived in an elaborate gold wok-style dish and contained three heaps of rice that were dyed with turmeric, red beet juice and butterfly pea. It had a rainbow of textures, colours and flavours ranging from toasted coconut to pomelo to edible flowers. The server tossed it all before our eyes, transforming it into something completely new. After the pomp of the presentation, I was let down by the bland flavour profile. Where’s that extra sweetness from the pork jowl when you need it?

Chef Nuit had me at beef short rib. Order at least two!

The gaeng boombai nua ($30) was another terrific entrée. The bone-in beef short rib, submerged in rich tamarind gravy, fell off the bone with a light poke of my fork. The sauce was slightly sweet with a suggestion of chili, accented with the scent of kaffir lime. The fragrant coconut rice that it came with was the perfect marriage of flavours and soaked up all that extra gravy. Its subtle sweetness balanced the richness of the beef.

Kiin was a dining experience like no other I can easily recall. As a guest, I felt like I was sitting on a throne the whole time. From the chor laddas to the gaeng boombai nua, each dish had a story or an interactive component that is often absent in dining these days. Chef Nuit and Jeff Regular have successfully showcased the nuances of Thai cuisine with the right dose of sophistication, exposing our palates—and our hearts—to something majestic.

Mme M. xoxo

4/5 étoiles

La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.

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