Joanne Kates re­views Kiin on Ade­laide and dis­cov­ers next-level Thai cui­sine

At their new res­tau­rant, T.O.’s cham­pi­ons of Thai food de­liver elab­o­rate and pic­to­rial fare

Thornhill Post - - Contents - JOANNE KATES Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cor­don Bleu de Cui­sine in Paris. She has writ­ten ar­ti­cles for nu­mer­ous publi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chate­laine.

I have been to Thai­land three times now. They say an army marches on its stom­ach, and this I, as a fre­quent trav­eller, can con­firm.

I learned to love the fra­grance of lemon­grass, the sweet ex­otic tang of Thai basil, the salty back story of fish sauce against the sweet of palm sugar, all with the crunch of toasted peanuts. It’s a cui­sine of great com­plex­ity, of big flavours in care­ful bal­ance. If you can get past the chilies.

Chef Nuit Reg­u­lar and her hus­band Jeff have made a de­li­cious niche in Toronto ca­ter­ing to us, the not-so-hot-chili peo­ple. And now Kiin, their fourth res­tau­rant (af­ter Pai, Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai), a pale and lovely room.

Kiin’s fo­cus is royal Thai cook­ing, al­though they do other Thai food as well. Royal cook­ing is what hap­pens when nor­mal Thai cook­ing be­comes more painstak­ing and de­tailed, fruit and veg de­seeded, fish deboned, pre­sen­ta­tions get pic­to­rial and elab­o­rate. Fit for a king.

The sig­na­ture app is roy Thai, a jewel of a plat­ter with four small bites, each pret­tier than its neigh­bour: mha hor is sweet pick­led turnip carved into a pineap­ple flower and stuffed with sa­vory/sweet co­conut and peanut paste. Chor ladda is a pur­ple flower-shaped dumpling (made from jas­mine rice dyed with but­ter­fly pea blos­soms) topped with crispy deep-fried Thai gar­lic. Rhoom is del­i­cate lacy egg net wrap­ping up minced sea­soned chicken. Thoong thong is a cute lit­tle deep-fried won­ton filled with beau­ti­fully spiced minced chicken and shrimp and sit­ting in a cu­cum­ber box. One bite each, all won­drous. I’ve eaten lots of ap­pe­tizer plat­ters in Thai­land, spe­cially in the north, where they favour such things, and none has come close to this opus.

But it’s small, so bulk up apps with their warm sweet/savoury spread of peanut, tamarind and co­conut stud­ded with sat­is­fy­ing chunks of shrimp and crab, to spoon onto crisp rice crack­ers.

I rarely think of rice as a main course, but khao yum is a con­tender. It comes in a big golden bowl, three slen­der pyra­mids of dyed rice: red from beets, pur­ple from but­ter­fly pea flow­ers and yel­low from turmeric. Around the pyra­mids are small piles of finely chopped lemon grass, long beans, Thai saw­tooth co­rian­der, kaf­fir lime leaves, cu­cum­ber, toasted co­conut, pomelo (kissin’ cousin to grape­fruit), fried chilies, sun­flower sprouts and Thai white turmeric. The server tosses it all to­gether with a sauce of tamarind and soy paste. We in­hale it grate­fully.

The other main we favour is gaeng boom­bai nua, beef short rib braised, gen­tled into moist ten­der­ness with tamarind, cu­cum­ber and cute lit­tle pearl onions. This too was in­spired by the kitchens of the royal fam­ily.

To be eat­ing Thai royal cui­sine at this mo­ment of his­tory, in Toronto, is surely an homage paid to her home­land by Nuit Reg­u­lar.

King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej of Thai­land died in Oc­to­ber 2016, and the coun­try de­clared a year­long pe­riod of mourn­ing. Dur­ing his long reign, the king was revered through­out Thai­land. There is still black and white bunt­ing with His Majesty’s pic­ture ev­ery few blocks all over Thai cities. Kiin seems a fit­ting me­mo­rial to a lost and beloved monarch.

Clock­wise from top: Jeff and Nuit Reg­u­lar at the Kiin open­ing; the vi­brant khao yum, the roy Thai plat­ter

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