Photo by Mabel Suen

In the form of Kiin Essentially Thai, northern Thai cuisine debuted in March in downtown St. Louis from Fork & Stix owner Phatcharin Wanna and Kobe Tanya. At the casual lunch and dinner destination, the business partners feature various dishes from their native city, Chiang Mai.

Wanna opened Fork & Stix in 2012 in St. Louis’ Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood, bringing northern-style Thai cuisine to the forefront of the city’s dining scene. Before that, she and Tanya crossed paths in other local kitchens.

“We had an opportunity to open up [a new restaurant] and decided to give it a chance,” Wanna says. “St. Louis has come a long way from when I moved here in 1997. I think people are getting to know more about Thai food and different regions of it, rather than just rustic food from central regions like Bangkok. They’re getting to know northern and northeastern [Thai] food.”

Wanna says the restaurant gets its name from กิน, pronounced kin – the Thai word for “eat.” The restaurant fills approximately 1,600 square feet space with 52 seats. St. Louis’ SPACE Architecture + Design gave the dining room a cozy, contemporary feel with creative hanging ceiling fixtures and lighting, as well as wall décor including baskets and plants. Kiin’s logo feature the likeness of yakshas, nature spirits that form an important element of Thai temple art and architecture.

On Kiin’s menu, guests will find plenty of Fork & Stix favorites, such as its ever-popular khao soi. The iconic northern Thai curry noodle soup comes with the diner’s choice of chicken, tofu or beef with egg noodles, pickled mustard greens and shallots, finished with crispy noodles and a lime wedge.

The growing list of unique offerings at Kiin includes such appetizers as house-made chicken cracklings served with chili-lime sauce, as well as yum som with pomelo, peanuts, toasted coconut, shallots and fish sauce.

Perhaps the most notable new dish, however, is khao mun gai, or poached ginger chicken and rice. “It’s a very popular street food every Thai person knows and loves, based on Hainanese chicken rice,” Wanna says. “What makes it different from the original is the sauce. We make it Thai with chili, lime, ginger and fermented soybean paste. It’s a simple dish, but good and homey.”

Additional offerings include hoy jaw, deep-fried pork and shrimp dumplings that are wrapped with tofu skin and served with sweet chili sauce. Muu tod, another appetizer option, involves deep-fried pork shoulder, fried garlic and shallot chips, served with chili-lime sauce.

To drink, Kiin offers a basic bar with wine, beer and spirits like vodka, rum and whiskey. All things considered, Kiin Essentially Thai should make a splendid culinary stop for theatergoers heading to End of the Rainbow from Max & Louie Productions at The Grandel.

Kiin Essentially Thai, 550 N. 7th St., St. Louis, 314-241-1989

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