Ground floor of the Thompson Hotel
60 Thompson Street (between Spring and Broome)New York, New York

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Dinner Entrees $22-28, Lunch Entrees $11-15, Three-Course Lunch Price Fixe $20 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Elegant, and upscale but comfortable and unpretentious
Cuisine- Modern, authentic Thai
Hits- Strong visual appeal in both decor and food presentation, spot-on flavors beautifully executed
Misses- We didn’t eat here sooner.  (Go make a reservation… now!)

During Restaurant Week last season, my sister Allison, her boyfriend Will, my boyfriend Rich, and I desperately wanted to try Kittichai.  We simply couldn’t get our schedules together, and before we knew it, Restaurant Week had come and gone.  Rich and I ventured to other venues, found them disappointing, and nearly swore off the hubbub of Restaurant Week altogether.
Totally on top of my game since I don’t work in the summer, I was on Restaurant Week reservations like a turkey vulture this season.  We got to Kittichai a little later than we’d wanted, but better late than never.  On a beautiful, sunny Sunday, we strolled around SoHo, past the bamboo-lined, white-linen-curtained outdoor dining pagodas and into a lounge space that played with light and color before plunging into the exquisite darkness of the dining area.
Walking past the fresh fruit lining the bar, there was no way we couldn’t order some of Kittichai’s specialty cocktails to start.
DSC03705Allison chose muddled grapes: Svedka vodka, champagne, red grapes, and young coconut garnished with a purple orchid.  Will and Rich had passion fruit margaritas made with Cabo Wabo tequila, fresh passionfruit, and lime.  I had a mixed berry mojito with Pyrat XO rum, mixed berries, lime, mint, brown sugar, and garnished with a stick of sugarcane.  All were exceptional, but general consensus at the table was that my drink was the favorite.
DSC03671To get to our table, we had plunged through a candlelit foyer that transitioned from the bright white bar to the dining room.
The main dining room is decorated in warm, wooden hues with a reflecting pool at the room’s center.  Folded paper flowers suspended over lotus leaves and floating candles emanate calm.  Backlit drapes in subtle yellows with some red, orange, and rose set an elegant tone.  Tables are spotlighted, and glass, wood, and metal bring a harmony of elements.
DSC03666Our appetizers are brilliant.  Allison has a spicy tomato and Thai basil salad with lily bulb and frisee.  The bitter green and sweet basil are lovely together.  The tomato is gently spiced and dressed perfectly in olive oil.
DSC03679Rich and Will eat had the duck confit with diced yellow and red watermelon, cucumber, and hoison dressing.  The duck is rich and flavorful, shredded finely with all the flavor but none of the fat.
DSC03680My appetizer, three corn fritters with chili aoili, is once again the table favorite.  (I’m two for two here…) The corn fritters are whole corn kernels balled and lightly battered with an aioli that is largely horseradishy mayonaise with a very mild heat on the finish.  Served on a banana leaf and not remotely greasy, they were a hit.
DSC03677For her entree, Allison had the grilled skirt steak with Swiss chard and roast curry pearl onions.  The skirt steak was absolute perfection, served with an orange sauce on top with a lovely, gentle heat.  (Skirt steak, as you might recall, is what turned us off to Restaurant Week last year.  Properly prepared, it can be dreamy, and I consider it a chef’s litmus test.)  It was served on a bed of Swiss chard, which had nice bite and was flavored with stock and bacon.  The curry on the pearl onions gave them nice color, but the curry flavor wasn’t strong.
DSC03687Will and Rich (who seemed to have the exact same mindset today) each had the Thai bird chili and lime egg noodles with braised short ribs and bean sprouts.  Again, rich, meaty, spicy, and warm, the plate was beautifully presented and executed.
DSC03686I had broiled coconut chicken breast with wok-fried choy sum.  Served with a side of jasmine rice (which was decent but not incredible), the greens were flavored with stock and had a fine spicy heat to them.  The chicken was fork tender without overdone coconut flavors, afforded by the unsweetened coconut cream dolloped on the plate.
DSC03688The appetizer left unchosen were crispy wrapped shrimp with bibb lettuce and sweet and spicy dipping sauce.  The entree we didn’t get to sample was shrimp and scallop skewers over chili cashew and jasmine rice.  Were I not allergic to shellfish, my choice would have been much more difficult.  Everything on the menu looked and was good.  Rich also tried a pineapple rice (off the Restaurant Week menu) served in a ceramic terrine that perfectly balanced the sweet fruit with savory bits of meat.
Allison and Will each had the flourless valrhona chocolate cake, which came wrapped and pinned in a lovely little banana leaf package and served with an egg-shaped dollop of fresh cream.  The cake didn’t even need to be chewed; it simply melted in the mouth, and the rich valrhona chocolate was truly a gift.
DSC03700Rich had a cold coconut “soup” with tapioca pearls (cubes, really) and small sphere of passionfruit sorbet.  The menu description didn’t really lead one to think of a soup (it merely said coconut tapioca), but it was a good surprise (see good and bad surprises in an earlier blog post.)
I had jasmine flan served in a whimsical banana leaf tent with a coconut-jasmine rice tuille.  Another good surprise, which wasn’t on the menu, was the jasmine ice cream, embedded with pieces of rice for texture and bite, and berries on a smear of vinegar and sugar.  The tuille tasted plain, and I didn’t get the coconut or jasmine strongly, but the flan and ice cream had a beautiful flowery flavor, and the texture of the custardy flan was divine.
Our only regret was not coming sooner, and I hesitate to share this special place because there are some gems I like keeping to myself.  That said, I’d like to see Kittichai do well, and I wish them every success.  We’ve been to far too many places who take the easy way out during Restaurant Week; Kittichai was not one of them.   There was no resting on laurels or idly sitting by, as you sometimes get with bigger names.  Executive Chef Pongtawat “Ian” Chalermkittichai, formerly of Napa’s French Laundry and the Four Seasons in Bangkok, put tremendous effort and love into every dish.  You can taste when someone loves what they do.
Would we come back? Absolutely.  See you there.

One Response to “Kittichai”

  1. MMM Kittichai is one of my favorite restaurants. Just seeing your picture of the chocolate cake is making me very excited to dine there with my mother again tonight! 🙂

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