Vancouver, BC V5L
Locavore Approved: YES- While the flavours are all about authentic Thai, the ingredients are all about home-grown goodness. The vegetables used in the dishes are incredibly fresh and the menu changes regularly to reflect the seasons. They also pay homage to Vancouver in their selection of local craft beers on tap.
It was a rainy Friday night and Hubby and I were feeling pretty mellow after a busy week. We were in the mood to eat out, but not somewhere that required changing out of jeans and a t-shirt. Rather than heading to one of our tried-and-true favourites, I was also keen to try somewhere new so I consulted my favourite and most reliable source, Scout Magazine's "Anticipated Openings" to see what had popped up in the last little while. Hubby was overjoyed when we came across Kin Kao, serving Thai food (one of his favourite cuisines) on Commercial Drive. The Drive is not a place that we venture out to often but, for Thai food, Hubby was more than happy to make the trip.
Kin Kao opened just last month by a Bangkok native which certainly comes across in the authenticity of the food. They are open for lunch, dinner and take-out. The ambience is inviting, with light-coloured walls and wood furniture. The decor is minimalist and clean (no tackiness in sight!), which was a perfect match for the friendly, no-fuss nature of the restaurant.
We arrived at around 8:30pm on a Friday night to what appeared to be a very long line, especially since the space only holds 25 seats. I was first skeptical when the girl working front of house said we would have a table within 15 minutes, but she was true to her word. We were first offered seats at the bar but opted to wait for a table which only took an extra 5 minutes. So whatever you do- do not let the line scare you away!
Everything about our visit to Kin Koa was great, but the thing that perhaps stood out the most in my mind was the service which was some of the friendliest service I have experience in Vancouver in some time. No pretension, no attitude, just 100% sincerity. All of the server we met were very genuine and treated us like friends. Despite the fact that it was a packed house, they spent ample time answering our menu questions, explaining their spiciness levels, pouring my husband a perfect beer, frequently refilling our water glasses and checking in on how we were were enjoying things. These guys made it look easy and certainly made us feel very welcome!
Proportionate to their compact space, Kin Kao has a small menu with about 5 starters and 10 mains with a nice mix of veg, seafood and vegetarian. They also offer a limited drink menu with a handful of beer (both local and Thai), one each of red and white wine and a few thai-inpired non-alcoholic choices including iced lemongrass which seemed quite popular.
Here is what Hubby and I enjoyed on our recent visit. I highly recommend sharing so that you can try as many of their phenomenal flavours as possible!
Papaya salad- This generously-portioned salad can be easily shared, although it is pretty darn good so you may want your own. It was composed of thinly-shaved papaya and carrot with a few green beans and tomatoes. Pretty classic, but the flavours were spot on and the ingredients were super fresh. A word of caution though- these guys do not skimp on spice, which our server amply warned us about. We love spice and medium was about all we could handle comfortably!
Pad Thai with Chicken- Hubby has had his fair share of Pad Thai over the years and this was easily amongst his favourites which is high praise! No surprises, just authentic pad thai prepared in the hands of experts which is exactly what this place does so well.
Stir-Fried Eggplant with Thai Basil- Again, the flavours in this dish were delicious. This is a good choice for those who enjoy more mild flavours as the spice factor was much lower (also available with chicken or pork). I appreciated the little pieces of green bean that soaked up the tasty sauce, since the eggplant was unfortunately undercooked and therefore was not able to absorb the flavours very well (the only little slip-up all night). I would highly recommend the side of jasmine rice and fried egg that can be added for just $2!
We thoroughly enjoyed our night at Kin Kao. It was just what the doctor ordered on this rainy Friday night- casual, friendly, and serving the best Thai food once could hope for! We knew it was a hit when Hubby started planning his return visit on the drive home!
We will most definitely be back, and likely soon!