Someone check Chef Eddy Thretipthuangisin’s forehead for a lightning-shaped scar, because he might be the Harry Potter of Fort Worth chefs. The guy and his ownership group have no fear about stepping into cursed restaurant locations and wielding the chef’s wizardry to break the curse. He seems to have exorcised the demons from the previously doomed location of his first eatery, Bite City Grill (2600 W. 7th St.). Now he’s stirring his culinary cauldron in the space that once housed the ill-fated MK Sushi Restaurant –– a place that tried to counter the in-house voodoo by changing its name to The Fish Sushi & Asian Grill, to no avail.
Kin Kin Urban Thai (2801 W. 7th St.) offers a modern, even playful version of Thretipthuangisin’s native cuisine. The food is not pure Thai, the kind you find in the firepots of Thai Belknap Cuisine (or rather, found — the sweetly appointed shop in an old strip mall has closed, more’s the pity). But neither is it watered down. Rather, it takes Western notions about upscale Asian fare and accommodates them while staying true to the Thai palate.
The space is open, and the floor-to-ceiling windows beautifully framed the view of the setting sun over West 7th Street on a recent evening visit. It would have been even nicer if the Urban Outfitters across the street weren’t obscuring that view, but I’ll take what I can get.
The dining room was packed, so my guest and I sat at the nearly empty bar, which quickly filled up as well. Every staffer who passed by greeted us with a polite head bow, hands in the prayer position. Without thinking about it I bowed back. I’ve never fully appreciated how many people it takes to staff a restaurant until I became aware of how much bowing I was doing.
After bows came drinks. The bar offers unique Thai twists on craft cocktails, though I went for the rather traditional Mhai Thai ($8.75) in the tiki glass. My drink was good, but I was blown away by my guest’s cocktail, the subtly sweet lychee margarita ($9.75), with tequila, lime, and Soho lychee, a tropical fruit liqueur.
The drinks went down quickly after our attentive bartender talked us into the delicious Thai beef jerky ($5.50), marinated in soy and bursting with spice. We moved on to the Thai Scotch egg ($8), with a shrimp and chicken crust. I missed the crunch of the traditional Scotch egg, made with sausage and breadcrumbs. But what it lacked in texture, it made up for in flavor, thanks in part to the red curry and sweet chile sauce mixed in. The dumplings ($9) were mostly a hit. The kitchen allows diners to mix and match the three types of housemade morsels, so we opted to try two each of the pork and shrimp, tofu and chives, and duck offering. The latter was a taste sensation, while the tofu dumpling was chewy and bland.
I set aside my spice cowardice and ordered the tender, delicious, and painfully hot Texas redfish pad cha ($22), served with curry paste, finger root, eggplant, bamboo shoots, and green peppercorns. The skin was beautifully crisp, and each bite was a new combination of ingredients and intense flavor. I devoured the generously portioned dish despite the constant stream of spice-induced tears rolling down my cheeks. My guest went for the more traditional green curry with shrimp ($16.50). The milky green mix of curry paste and coconut milk was a lovely companion to the plump shrimp, bamboo shoots, Anaheim peppers, Thai basil, and eggplant. I’m a sucker for green curry, and Kin Kin’s ranks among the best I’ve ever eaten.
It’s remarkable how a great chef can turn a cursed location into a foodie hub. Maybe the guy cooks with a wand.
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