Sabai Sabai. Pai. Sukhothai. These popular, affordable Thai eateries have stood out from the crowded restaurant scene in Toronto by featuring lesser-known specialties like laap salad (a meat dish with fish sauce, lime, and roasted rice) and stir-fried morning glory alongside crowd-pleasers like pad thai and massaman curry. So it’s not surprising that Nuit and Jeff Regular’s latest venture, Kiin, has quickly become a downtown dining destination just two months into its soft opening on Adelaide Street, in the old Khao San Road space.
Whereas Sabai Sabai focuses on northern and Laos-style dishes, and Pai features street food, Kiin, which means “to eat”, aims to show entirely different ways of experiencing Thai fare. Menus are still being finalized, but broadly speaking the dinner menu highlights royal Thai cuisine while the rice- and noodle-focused choices at lunch are typical of what a worker in Thailand might quickly consume on a meal break.
“[At lunch] the food has to be fast, and most of the dishes are not for sharing,” explains chef Nuit, whereas royal Thai cuisine is an advanced style of cooking that includes a thoughtful, time-consuming prep process and in-season ingredients. “With royal cuisine…any food that comes out to the table, the fish will be de-boned, the food will be bite-sized and easy to eat, and the taste will be very well-balanced with sweet, sour, salty, and savoury [notes].”
The through-line between both menus is Nuit’s push for high-quality ingredients, some of which are flown in twice a week directly from Thailand, and willingness to introduce regional dishes that would be hard to find elsewhere. The kao yum salad, which is a delightful assemblage of colours and textures, features more than a dozen ingredients including pomelo, edible flowers, and rice dyed with beets, turmeric, and butterfly pea flowers. The wing bean salad, or yum tua plu, incorporates a chili shrimp paste that is made from scratch in house, because Nuit finds commercially available pastes too sweet. Even the Thai iced teas are accented with exotic flavours like pandan, bael fruit, and hibiscus.
Each dish at Kiin is meticulously prepared and thoughtfully plated, and the result is a revelatory dining experience that puts a little-known, more elevated side of Thai cooking in the spotlight. Just don’t get too attached to anything on the menu; in true royal style, Nuit hopes to rotate ingredients and update recipes seasonally.
Kiin, 326 Adelaide St W, Toronto, (647) 490-5040.
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