Note: Harold Dieterle closed Kin Shop and its sister restaurant, Perilla, late in 2015. He said that he was “not having fun and enjoying myself.”
Harold Dieterle, the winner of Top Chef Season 1, has done many admirable things. To date, he is the only winner of that show to parlay his success into a restaurant: Perilla.
And since opening three years ago, Dieterle has basically stayed put, focusing on his kitchen, not photo-ops. Critical reception was tepid, but we liked Perilla when we visited earlier this year, and it remains steadily busy.
A few weeks ago, he opened Kin Shop, a Thai restaurant. Yeah, it’s a bit of an eye-roller: both the kitschy name, and the deeper question whether Thai cuisine is something a non-native can just dabble in.
Does Kin Shop qualify as an authentic Thai restaurant? I’ll leave that debate to others. In an interview, Dieterle wisely described the menu as “spins on traditional dishes” and “original stuff with influences from Thai flavors and ingredients.” In short: it doesn’t much matter whether you would see these exact dishes in Thailand.
The menu is much more focused than at the typical Thai restaurant, where you could visit every day for months without running out of new things to try. There are just two dozen items, all served family style, as sharable plates. It’s fairly priced for the West Village, though not if your idea of great NYC Thai food is a place in Queens. Salads and soups are $9–14, vegetables $8–9, noodles and curries $14–25.
Spicy Duck Laab Salad ($13; above left) was aggressively hot. We loved it, but we were left with no taste for the Beef Tartare ($14; above right), which failed to make much of an impression.
Dieterle’s skill with proteins really shone, including the tenderest duck breast ($24; above left) that I’ve had in a long time. Put it in pancakes and add some red curry sauce, and you are in for a treat.
Goat ($21; above right) came with a milder curry sauce and a blaze of fried shallots, purple yams, mustard greens, and toasted coconuts. It seemed to be the same cut that would be called osso buco if it were veal, and if this were Italy. Having been braised for many hours, it came off the bone like butter. [Update: Justin, in the comments, says it’s the neck, not the osso buco.]
We didn’t mind the family-style service, but the food came out too fast. Our first two items, plus a Stir Fry of Aquatic Vegetables ($9; above left), all arrived at once. Perhaps we’d have liked that Beef Tartare better if the Duck Laab Salad hadn’t been there to overwhelm it. Perhaps the vegetables wouldn’t have seemed dispensable if they’d been served later.
The two entrées came together, as well, and I began to suspect this was part of a strategy for turning tables. Kin Shop is packed in its early days: both the bar (where they also serve food) and the tables were full, and the host was turning walk-ins away. Servers, at least, are attentive and well informed about the cuisine.
The space is narrow, with an open kitchen in the back. There is exposed brick, painted white. Green floral wall hangings match the banquettes, in a design not especially suggestive of Thailand. It is exactly what you expect a West Village-y dining room to be.
I suspect the Sripraphai set will sniff haughtily at Kin Shop, but Harold Dieterle’s version of Thai cuisine is very good indeed.
Kin Shop (469 Sixth Avenue between 11th & 12th Streets, West Village)