Friday, July 15, 2011

Kittichai Serves it Up for NYC Restaurant Week

Usually Restaurant Week can feel like a second-class helping of after-thoughts. Not at Kittichai - for the most part. Situated at the base of the 60 Thompson Hotel, this eclectic modern Thai restaurant did not shortchange the Restaurant Week diner. After executive chef Ian Chalermkittichai returned to Thailand, the owners brought in Aussie chef Ty Bellingham to take the reigns in 2010. This move was not a misstep.


From the requisite $35 prix-fixe menu, you are able to choose one of four offerings from appetizer and entree courses, and from a selection of three desserts. My sampling included the Thai-spiced gazpacho and shrimp and cucumber salad for appetizers. I must say that these were not the standouts of the bunch. Under the guise of “gazpacho” the soup more closely resembled a cold chunky tomato puree with a flavor profile reminiscent of pasta sauce. Albeit a good pasta sauce, but the expectation of a gazpacho will definitely throw you. As for the salad, it was surprisingly plentiful on the shrimp front, with a green chilli dressing and torn mint. It was refreshing and simple (emphasis on the simple).

 

The entrees we chose were truly spectacular. If you go, you must order the chilli-smoked hangar steak, marinated in the perfect blend of sweet, salty, and spicy. Cooked to a juicy medium-rare with satisfyingly sweet preserves atop crunchy long beans, every bite was balanced in flavor and texture. The pan-seared Bronzino in a coconut-tumeric broth offered up two substantial skin-on pieces dotted with tiny scallops. While the fish was flaky and tender, the warm broth provided ultimate slurping satisfaction.
 


Dessert was all about the flourless chocolate cake. A healthy helping of chocolate never hurt anyone. This one was a seemingly dense brick unveiled from its banana leaf wrapping table-side, and accompanied by a dollop of sweet cream (easily mistaken for ice cream). The fascinating thing about this square mound was that it was not dense at all, but rather dissipated like a silky powder on your tongue, allowing for long-lingering cocoa flavors. How bad can that be? On another plate, the three distinguished scoops of ice cream and sorbet (espresso, pina colada, and mango) were an interactive dessert, as I found mixing and matching them provided ultimate flavor discovery and satisfaction. Don’t discount the magic of espresso and mango on your spoon.
 

While I can’t speak for the other items on the menu, use my experience as a guide to navigate your restaurant Week taste for Thai at Kittichai.