Kin Shop

Interpretation trumps tradition at this Thai eatery.

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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  • Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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Photograph: Marianne Rafter

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Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Some chefs return home from their travels abroad with a priestly devotion to authenticity, attempting to re-create in maniacal detail the best stuff they tasted. Others take a more impressionistic approach, subtly working far-flung flavors into their repertoires.

At his new restaurant, Kin Shop, Top Chef champ Harold Dieterle attempts both tacks at once. His menu, the legacy of two monthlong Southeast Asian sabbaticals, features classic Thai street food alongside more upmarket Thai-inspired dishes. But while there are certainly standouts among the chef's auteur creations, the traditional fare often seems extraneous.

Duck larb salad, the spiciest thing on the menu, is a purist rendition of a northern Thai classic, with a chili burn that will obliterate your taste buds. But the dish—soggy minced meat and toasted rice powder spooned into crisp romaine leaves—isn't nuanced enough to warrant enduring its blistering heat, missing the layered complexity that's so rarely exported from Thailand. Slippery noodles with oyster-sauced chicken sausage, meanwhile, taste too much like generic Thai takeout.

The dining room where you'll find this food is light on the Asian exotica that defines most of the city's Thai restaurants, with decorative art and plush seating in soft resort shades of aquamarine. The cooking is often more fiery than the soothing setting it is served in, but the best dishes are in fact as abstract as the space.

A beautifully composed salad of golden fried oysters, cool slivered celery and crispy pork belly is bright and refreshing—a chefly spin on a dish Dieterle first tasted on a beach on the Andaman Sea. And while roasted marrowbones split down the middle have no real geography, they're certainly delicious, topped in an intriguing sour-salty mix of fermented beans and crispy taro.

The best of the large dishes—everything here is designed to be shared—are only loosely rooted in Thai flavors. Dieterle's Massaman curry ought to be listed in quotes. Its sauce, infused with coconut milk, duck fat and pineapple juice and poured over a spoon-tender haunch of long-braised goat neck, is rich and silky, like French bordelaise. A steamed red-snapper fillet, just as expertly cooked, comes bathed in a lush green curry sauce that's more sour than hot, with sweet cashews and kabocha squash sprinkled around it.

Without a pastry chef, desserts are an afterthought for now (there's just ice cream and middling passion fruit pudding). And while Dieterle might not pass muster as a food anthropologist, he's worth following when he veers off-trail and cooks from imagination rather than memory.

Vitals

Eat this: Pork and oyster salad, bone marrow, Massaman goat, steamed red snapper

Drink this: Among the Thai-influenced cocktails, try the ALN ($12), like a dirty gin martini with spicy pickle brine instead of olive juice.

Sit here: The best seats, at a counter peering into the kitchen, offer a view of the chefs preparing your dinner.

Conversation piece: Kin, which means "eat" in Thai, is a double entendre. The restaurant is also the "kin" to Perilla, Dieterle's other casual West Village spot.

RELATED

Spicy food pairings: Kin Shop manager Julia Travis recommends three beverages that play well with fire.

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469 Sixth Ave between 11th and 12th Sts (212-675-4295). Subway: F,  M to 14th St; L to Sixth Ave. Mon--Thu 11:30am--3pm, 5:30--11pm; Fri, Sat 11:30am--3pm, 5:30--11:30pm; Sun 11:30am--3pm, 5--10pm. Average main course: $20.

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