Along a row of discreet shophouses in Jalan Besar lies an unassuming facade riddled with mystery. Though faintly tinted with purple lights, the lot is far from a sleaze fest. Instead, a flavour kaleidoscope of earnest Thai flavours awaits your tastebuds. At the helm is chef-owner K-Jin Lim who brings out the refined nuances of regional Thai cuisine by stripping traditional formalities and pretence. Armed with a wealth of experience, Lim spent the last eight years in Chiang Mai cutting his teeth alongside a traditional Thai chef whose grandmother was the head chef for the Thai royal family.
Hot, sour, salty, and sweet – expect a carefully curated eight-course tasting menu ($148) that is adventurous yet familiar. Whether you’re seated by the chef’s table or the dining room, the calm and cosy ambience grounds you – think understated deep tones with gold accents, traditional Thai folk art, and mellow Thai-inspired tunes that are echoed by the occasional roar of the wok. Each meal starts north with an explosive miang kham (betel leaf wrap, pictured above) and a tamarind shot – just like how they do it in Chiang Mai before each meal.
Crunchy cucumbers and assorted fritters are then served with a heady nam prik gapi (shrimp paste relish) bursting with funk, umami and spice. Your tastebuds should be awake by now. Next, prepare to go south with innovative riffs on the all-familiar gaeng som fak thong (spicy Thai orange curry, pictured above) and tom kha gai (tom yum with coconut milk). The former cleverly introduces Japanese pumpkin into the curry to mellow out the fiery heat and layers it with a smoke-kissed strip of dry-aged Chilean seabass and feathery fronds of cha-om (Thai fish floss).
While the latter plays on temperatures and deconstructs the familiar Thai broth into a cold but comforting espuma laced with galangal and lemongrass. It then comes with a baked chicken wing (pictured below) stuffed with foie-infused sticky rice to dip. After a palate cleansing som tham assortment, the exquisite mains set out to amuse with richer flavours while complementing select produce from land and sea.
Maine lobster is beautifully cooked till tender sweet and paired with a velvety turmeric-laced curry. Crispy rice and grilled greens are added to lift the dish for a much-needed dose of texture. Iberico secreto (pork shoulder) prepared Isaan-style, is brushed liberally with palm sugar and charcoal grilled to achieve a caramelised crust that wraps around the pinkish fork-tender middle. For extra indulgence, substitute the pork for A5 Saga Wagyu striploin for a top-up of $32.
They are presented with a harmony of sides: a northern-style nam prik noom (smoky umami green chilli dip), Isaan nam jim jeaw (funky tart fish sauce) and a garlicky cherry tomato salad. Though it is the signature khao pad kid terng (salted threadfin fried rice) that is primed to be the cult favourite with its evocative smoky briny profile – definitely on a need-to-order basis despite the $14 top-up. Dessert humbles with the decadence of tub tim krob (Thai red ruby) and coconut ice cream tampered with the lightest sprinkle of sea salt.
Just like transforming raw stones into polished gems, a meal at Khiri is all but a chef’s tastefully sincere expression of marrying the contemporary with deep-rooted Thai traditions. And if you’re ever rendered speechless by the spice, keep calm and ask for an ice-cold Leo – you won’t ever go wrong with that.