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Kin Thai elevates humble food to art form
By Greg Sabin
Kin Thai Street Eatery opened in December 2020, a tough time to start a restaurant. Yet the lively Midtown spot thrived from the start.
Intense flavors and novel dishes familiar to Bangkok street markets make this exceptional restaurant flourish, even in difficult times.
Street food is having a moment. Over the last decade, street food, especially Asian street food, jumped many rungs on the culinary ladder. Thanks to television personalities Andrew Zimmern and the late Anthony Bourdain, less adventurous diners have seen how some of the world’s best food comes from small stands on busy streets.
In 2016, a street vendor in Singapore won a Michelin star for his chicken and rice. The announcement created a global conversation about street food and its significance. Inevitably, the newfound fame inspired the vendor to expand rapidly and lose his star.
But street food is no longer seen as “less than.” One doesn’t have to be a globe-trotting adventurer to find great street bites. More restaurants bring street fare inside and put it on the menu next to traditional dishes. Customers can’t get enough.
Kin, a bright and convivial place on 20th Street in the MARRS Building, embraces the street food of Thailand. The menu looks nothing like the standard American-Thai restaurant. Deep-fried bites, skewers and salads dominate, with vivid sauces and sweet relishes rounding out most dishes.
Take a seat at one of Kin’s heavy wood benches and under the undimmed lights you’ll see dumplings (listed as Thai ravioli) on nearly every table. You’ll smell the curry roti, a smart mashup of traditional Indian preparations mixed with Thai sauces, and want to order it.
A quick glance at what’s coming out of Kin’s kitchen and you’ll find delicious chive cakes, corn fritters and root vegetable haystacks.
The chive cakes deliver enough savory umami to level a small city. When dipped in the accompanying sweet chili vinaigrette, angels sing.
The corn fritters are Thailand’s answer to the hushpuppy. Taking that all-American ingredient—corn—and marrying it with spices of Southeast Asia is a brilliant move for culinary diplomacy.
The haystacks (nicknamed The Roots) remind me of an Indian pakora, but stuffed with taro root, pumpkin and sweet potato.
Once that crispy, salty, tangy itch has been scratched, you’ll need something on the meaty side. Get the pork skewers. Trust me. The smoky, grilled morsels of piggy goodness glazed with an insane tamarind marinade will satisfy any meat eater.
If you want the king of all meats, the massaman curry with stewed beef is my favorite dish of 2022. The chorus of ingredients, from coconut to cardamom, cinnamon to cumin, makes beautiful music.
The atmosphere at Kin matches the neighborhood. The MARRS building is the epicenter of Midtown and the eating, drinking, laughing and partying rarely stop. Kin is bright and alive, like any good night market.
The service is quick and friendly, and the dishes come out as they’re ready. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to over-order and let everyone at the table try a bite. Let the people at the next table try a bite, too. Maybe they’ll return the favor.
Kin Thai Street Eatery is at 1050 20th St. (between J and K streets); kinthaieatery.com; (916) 619-8144
Greg Sabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.