By now, anyone who is interested in restaurant news knows that when the originally illustrious Kao Soy opened in Red Hook, Brooklyn, it was much lauded, but then drumroll… a parting of the ways occurred less than a year after it opened. Co-chef Kanlaya Supachana left and started up her own new spot just down the way. It may only park in the Home Made Cafe space for six months while she looks for a more permanent home, but at least we are the immediate benefactors of pop-up land in a big way. This is authentic, contemporary, fierce, filled with heart Thai food.
The vibe here is great. Brick walls, mismatched tables and chairs, sculpted pigs in the window and a chalkboard where the quote changes daily.
However, the wonderful soulful vibe has nothing on the food here. This is remarkable and dare I say – meaningful cooking. You can taste her intention, the legacy of her father’s recipes, her technique that is beautifully displayed in the pleasing and very assertive spicing. It’s unique and without compromise.
Tum Mamuang, green mango pounded with palm sugar, garlic, and dry chili made in the northern style. This one is done with plaa raa, a fermented fish sauce instead of regular fish sauce. It’s refined, luscious and tongue sizzling, served on betel leaves so you can wrap up a few sticks and bite into the filled leaf, for that edge of sweet coolness that is deliciously welcome.
Jin Som Mok has become one of the most talked about dishes. Grilled fermented ground pork with pork skin, pig’s ear, garlic and chili in banana leaves, served with the usual holy trinity of ginger, shallots and peanuts. It has that addictive salty-sour-lime-peanut-ginger thing that you can’t get enough of. And there’s no reason you should stop trying.
Krabong – butternut squash, taro and banana blossom fritters with a spicy chili vinaigrette sauce & sweet peanut chili sauce. It’s fried delight all the way around – crunchy, an earthy sweetness and yet light…and those banana blossoms are even better than they were at the former restaurant. Better mood, better blossoms?
Khoong Yang, delicately grilled prawns with spicy Nam Jim Talay and sweet peanut chili sauce was choice. One of the prawns was a bit overcooked but I forgive. On the whole it was a juicy, delightfully satisfying dish.
Pla Nueng See-ew, steamed fish filets with soy ginger sauce, Yu Choi, celery and scallions. So simple right? But the broth is sublime, rounded and rich. No thai bread for sopping of course though these are the times when it would be so nice.
There’s much more to taste here, friends flipped for the hangar steak redolent of thai spices as well as the many other pork dishes available. All the more reason to come back.
There’s a full beer and wine list. We thought we’d start with a beer and move on to the more than decent wines but our beers were great and perfect with the meal. Good to know there are wines there to choose from though that would compliment perfectly.
Contributing to the food, atmosphere and the heart here, are the staff. There’s a sweetness and sincerity, an eagerness to please. Much like the aesthetics of the plating. Dishes are served with expected Thai accoutrements like banana leaves and cilantro but here they are charmingly, gracefully arranged on the plate.
I didn’t get to see the back garden, a must before the weather or the pop-up changes but I know the chef grows flowers back there and creates interesting and lovely arrangements in the front of house from her forays to the flower market. It’s that care and attention to every detail that is so prevalent in every bite she offers.
I wish I lived next door. I’d go all the time. This is the kind of place that you want to get to asap and then return to again and again while it’s here. Hopefully Chiang Mai will land somewhere for good and we won’t have to forgive ourselves for not dining here as much as we know we should have. Or at the very least, enjoy it often for the next six months or so and no self flagellation will be required.
293 Van Brunt Street between King/Pioneer Street
Sunday-Thursday 12-3:30 / 5-10:00
Friday-Saturday 12-3:30 / 5-10:30