Kiin Kiin Can… and Does!

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With all the hubbub about the New Scandinavian Cuisine and only a few days in Copenhagen to experience the epicenter of that cuisine, why have Thai food? The answer would be because Kiin Kiin is one of only two Thai restaurants in the world currently with a Michelin star and it came very highly recommended. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that we did as Kiin Kiin is simply the absolute best Thai food I have ever had. Having eaten at such wonderful Thai restaurants as Sripaphai, Lotus of Siam as well as the grossly over-rated Arun's in Chicago, calling Kiin Kiin the best Thai food I have ever had is no small compliment, but still, in Copenhagen? Yes, in Copenhagen, because to simply label the meal I had at Kiin Kiin with my wife, my son and our friends, Scott and Tanya Boswell as the best of a genre, whatever the genre may be would be doing that meal a dis-service. The meal we had was simply an outstanding dinner, transcending any specific genre. I believe that Kiin Kiin should be on any serious gastronomic traveler's list when coming to Copenhagen and soon, Bangkok as well, as Kiin Kiin owner Henrik Yde-Andersen and his team will be opening there shortly, having been recruited and supported directly by members of the Thai Royal Family.

Thai food, when done well is all about balance and harmony of flavors amongst salty, sweet, sour and heat. All too often, though neither balance nor harmony are achieved with one component tending to predominate. In the United States, that component, more often than not, tends to be the sweet, which is why I have tended to shy away from Thai restaurants unless they come strongly recommended. In the case of Kiin Kiin, it came very strongly recommended by two food bloggers, whose knowledge and ability to convey their experiences are outstanding, Food Snob and Trine of verygoodfood, both of whom frequent Copenhagen's very best restaurants.

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We were greeted warmly as we entered the restaurant, which is located in a residential area of Copenhagen. From the entrance, we were seated towards the rear of a charming lounge area that had been beautifully appointed with Thai furniture and artifacts. Beginning with a nice champagne, a trove of delightful starters or "khong wang" soon followed to tantalize our eyes and palates. While a lot of what we were served was superficially familiar, like the soy roasted cashews and the pork cracklings with yellow curry, they possessed elements that elevated them. For example, the cracklings, while not presented in an unfamiliar form, had the benefit of a perfectly balanced yellow curry that transported an ordinarily tasty product into an ethereal one.Tapioca with oyster dip was unusual in form and flavor and satisfying in both. Most tapioca I have had has been soft, gummy and pliable. This was popped and crispy and served with an oyster and seaweed dipping sauce. Lotus roots fried with lime leaves added the haunting note of kaffir lime to a crispy flavorful chip. 

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These mostly, crispy and salty snacks were followed by wonderful examples of Thai street food including Yam Nuah, typically a grilled beef salad. Kiin Kiin's yam nuah had all the components, but if the immaculate beef was grilled, it fooled me. Most yam nuah's in my experience are presented as traditional salads. Kiin kiin's was a roll with the beef on the outside and the cucumber, mint, lettuce and other components rolled within the thinly sliced beef. It was delicious.

A cold sesame salad was presented on soup spoons, also delicious. The highlight, though, was the tod man pla with cucumber chutney. The spicy fish cakes were sheer perfection. Dipped into the chutney, I could have continued with these alone.

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Once we were through with the snacks, Kiin Kiin host, sommelier and owner, Henrik Yde-Andersen took us on a brief tour of A- Roii, their attached take-away restaurant and the restaurant's small, but efficient kitchen before leading us up to the main dining room. Once there, the five of us were seated around a comfortable rectangular table. At this point, I encountered my only serious criticism of the restaurant or at least my experience at the restaurant – the lighting. I never use a flash in restaurants. Usually, I am able to get by, since I have a camera with good low light capabilities. In this case, I'm afraid, I was not generally successful, which is a pity, since the food and the setting was just beautiful.

A "Soup Based on Chicken" was about as understated a dish description as I have ever encountered. The soup, which also contained galanga was supremely elegant, but also supremely complex, full of deep and savory flavors. It was a revelation. Scallop dim sum came in ethereally light wrappers. Another dish, Frozen Red Curry with Crab Salad, added modern touches to intense, balanced flavor. The platings were decidedly modern, the flavors decidedly delicious and the origin clearly Thai. Other outstanding dishes included salad with spicy marinade and orchids, onions with black beans, green curry with beet root and cod, baby lobster with tamarind and of course pad thai. I like a good  pad thai, but the Pad Thai Kiin Kiin, was far superior to any I have ever had before, in terms of presentation, flavor and sheer satisfaction. I have never swooned over a pad thai before. Following that, dishes of chantarelle mushrooms in coconut milk and lime leaves and guinea fowl with plum sauce and peanuts brought the savory component of the meal to a tremendous close.

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Thai food can be tricky to pair wines with, but that was no problem at Kiin Kiin, which made not only compatible matches, but exquisite ones. It's not a great leap to have paired the food with northern European whites, but the ones chosen couldn't have worked better, including Grüner Veltliner Hiedler 2007 Kamptall, Riesling Peter Lauer saar 2008, and Gewürztraminer Zind Humbrecht Turckheim Alsace 2008 and an inspired Pinot noir D’Arenberg Adelaide Australia to go with the pintade. My son's non-alcoholic pairings were also delightful.

Desserts were no less delicious, focusing on flavors from southeast Asia including passionfruit, ginger, mulberry and pandan leaf.

I believe very strongly that how a diner experiences a meal goes well beyond what is served on the plate. So much can be determined by a diner's attitude and physical state. For example, I tend to enjoy a meal more when I'm hungry then when I'm full and less so when I'm tired and cranky. Given that we had arrived in Copenhagen only that morning after an overnight flight and had spent the better part of the day on rides at the marvelously personable Tivoli Gardens, Kiin Kiin had a very big obstacle to overcome. My wife, our son and I were essentially exhausted by the time we arrived at the restaurant with Scott and Tanya  (it happened to be Tanya's birthday). My son barely managed to make it through the first part of the meal before he conked out (the kind staff were able to make him comfortable in the nearby lounge), but the bold, beautiful and delicious food managed to energize both my wife and I as well as Tanya and Scott, who had arrived in Copenhagen the day before. A merely very good meal and service would not have succeeded in winning me over at that point. I've had high expectations dashed for lesser reasons. Yde-Andersen and his crew delivered royally and made for a sensational start to our Copenhagen dining extravaganza. When in Copenhagen, don't miss Kiin Kiin – not because it is a great Thai restaurant, but because it is a great restaurant, period.


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