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May 23, 2008 07:51 AM

[MSP] - Kin Dee, a new "Thai" restaurant

Kin Dee is located on the corner of Chicago Ave and 2nd St, across the street from the Guthrie.

The place has a stylish and beautiful interior, with an open kitchen. I didn't count the tables but I'd surmise there aren't more than about twenty. We ate lunch there Thursday, May 21, and to be fair, I believe their first 'open' day was Monday, May 18.

Service was courteous and professional. The owner/chef is Thai.

We ordered four items for the two of us: Laab Gai, Beef Panang, Pla Foo Yum (a crispy fish salad), and a green curry with chicken.

Yuck X 4.

Some wife is Thai and we spend a couple months a year in Thailand with family and keep a pretty keen tab on what Thai food really tastes like. It definitely colors our opinions of what is presented as Thai food in MN.

The laab was mushy and very bland. It was served with wilty green lettuce, ostensibly to be used as a lettuce cup I'm sure, but given it's soggy nature, couldn't possibly be eaten that way.

Panang, when done well, is cooked until the coconut oil separates from the coconut milk. The result is a much thickened and dark red finish to the dish. The peanuts should be incorporated into the sauce and frequently you'll find some thai basil in there as well. Ours was light pink, absolutely overwhelmed by coconut milk, peanuts merely sprinkled on top, and a consistency of soup.

Pla Foo Yum is a crispy fish salad. It is made with snakefish in Thailand which is a very dry meat fish that lends itself well to being "foo'd". Pla Foo is fish that is deep fried into a "wild hair" kind of texture. Ours was made with Tilapia. Is there no other fish available to Thai restaurants here? Tilapia is a very WET fish and doesn't crisp up much at all. The more annoying part is that our salad came with maybe an ounce of fish total and a very large pile of lettuce salad, and four slices of green mango. The proper salad is a very large portion of crisped fish atop a green mango salad with a little bit of lettuce on the side as a garnish. We were disappointed in all aspects of this dish.

The green curry was tasteless and lacked any fire of any kind. It too was such a pale color, nearly white from the preponderance of coconut milk. A couple bites were enough to push it away and ask for the bill.

We met the owner/chef before the meal, spoke to her in Thai, asked if the dishes were being presented in an authentic style or if they were adapted for local tastes. We were assured everything was traditional and authentic. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We were also a bit troubled to see several bottles of commercial Pad Thai sauce on the counter in the kitchen. After seeing those, my wife felt pretty strongly that the curries were packaged as well, but we have no evidence to stand behind that statement. They just tasted that way and were inflected with dried chili dust typical of large commercial chili grinders. Curries made by hand have ingredients in the finished paste whose elements are very irregular from being ground in a mortar. Commercially ground curries are very uniform. You can draw your own conclusions but we'll stand behind our suspicions.

The bill for the four items was about $40 before tip.

The place is clearly geared for the Guthrie crowd and they're probably going to do fine. Nothing about their food is offensive to MN tastes. The food is Thai in name only and all but the most discerning probably won't care about that.

Respectfully submitted,


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  1. What a bummer. I was filled with hope when I saw your post and am so disappointed by your conclusions. Well, thanks for taking one for the team and reporting back.


    1 Reply
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I know. We had high hopes too. Oh well.

    2. Thank you so much for that report. We were at the Mill City Farmer's Market this morning, and saw it as we walked to the car. I was wondering about it, but I shall not wonder any longer.

      A question for you, HuaGung, given your unique perspective. Is there a place in the TC where you find Thai food that does meet your needs, or are you and your wife relegated to cooking for yourselves?

      9 Replies
      1. re: cheeseguysgirl

        Mostly we eat at home. However, we like Krua Thai in St Paul and Chai's Thai in Minneapolis because the cooks use the right ingredients and will accommodate my wife's wishes for an authentic taste when she asks them for it.

        1. re: HuaGung

          Thanks- so, could you tell me if the sugary tendency of a lot of Thai food
          around these parts is authentic or not? And is there a way to describe
          the taste difference between the typical food at Krua for example, as
          opposed to the authentic style that you ask for?

          1. re: faith

            The sugary taste you experience is an adaptation to local tastes. You don't find this in NYC or Vegas or LA for example. As a small aside, our preference for Pad Thai around here is odd for my wife. Pad Thai is NOT found in restaurants in Thailand. It's a street snack and almost never served as a meal, except to foreigners. Go figure, huh?

            Some Thai dishes ARE sweet by design, some are salty/fishy, many but not all are spicy. Every restaurant table in Thailand will have chilies in lime and fish sauce available as a condiment. You almost never get that here unless you ask for it. It's called Nam Pla Prik and it is an essential taste to Thai food. They use it like we use table salt, and also to kick up the heat when they want to.

            We still find that we need to ask for the cook to "make it like Bangkok" and to please not add sugar when it's not normally called for. We have pretty good success with this at Krua Thai and Chai's Thai as I mentioned above. Other local fav's like True Thai, Tum Rup Thai, Amazing Thailand, Chiang Mai Thai, etc., we avoid like the plague. We have tried diligently to love them, but cannot for various reasons.

            1. re: HuaGung

              Thank you for that thoughtful reply. I am not a big fan of a lot of Thai dishes here in Mpls, as they seem too sweet for me, but I never knew whether it was me (and that's the way the dishes are in Thailand) or if it was the way they were prepared (and I would enjoy authentic Thai food). Now I know I can go to Chai's or Krua and ask for it authentic, not sweet, and get something I may actually enjoy.

              1. re: HuaGung

                We seem to have similar taste in thai restaurants in the twin cities, and i am eagerly awaiting your impression of the new ownership at krua.

                Im curious about the difference between the Plah Foo Yum you got here, the ideal one you would compare it to, and, say, the larb plah i've eaten at my favorite thai place in sf. its basically super deep fried catfish, chopped up with typical larb dressings/accompaniments of lime juice, chilies, cilantro and fish sauce.

                1. re: tex.s.toast

                  The ideal Pla Foo Yum my wife and I enjoy, is crisped fish meat that is served atop a 'yum' of sliced/juilienned green mango that has been blended with tamarind juice, a little lime juice, some garlic, chilis, etc. The focus of the dish is ideally the fish, so that on every bite you are eating a little salad with a bit of fish.
                  We couldn't do that at Kin Dee because there was so little fish and virtually no mango. It was mostly local green lettuce, which wouldn't be a primary ingredient in this dish in Thailand.

                  It is different from a laab plah in that laab contains NO mango salad and a yum would not have toasted rice in it either. In a yum the fish or other meat is served on top of the salad part and is not mixed in as it would be in a laab. Hope that's clear.

                2. re: HuaGung

                  I don't agree with the sugar part. Thai food in Thailand (made for locals) is much sweeter now than it was, say, 20 years ago. My father (born and raised in Bangkok) and I were in Bangkok in 1999, and he was very disappointed with a lot of the food, and kept commenting on how sweet everything was. It was his first visit there since 1984 or '87, so in those 12 or 15 years, food had really changed.

                  Also, pad thai is most definitely found in Thai-food-for-Thai-people restaurants in Thailand, but it's mostly for a certain segment of the population. I'm pretty sure I've had it at Klang Soi on Soi Klang or some other similar place.

                  Is Pla Foo Yum the same as Yum Pla Dook Foo? Pla dook is catifish, I thought (though not the same species of catfish as American catfish).

                  1. re: prasantrin

                    To your last question, yes it is with the exception of the fish used. Any fish can be used in the dish, but it's done best with a dry, meaty fish that lends itself to being foo'd.

                    As to the Pad Thai thing, I guess we'll disagree a bit. Broad statements can always have exceptions found for them, and perhaps my claim was too broad. If one were to specifically ask for it, Pad Thai could probably be found at EVERY restaurant but probably not on the printed menu. One might find it at breakfast only places, wrapped in an egg, etc., but my larger point of it not being a main meal staple food in Thailand stands. It's a snack and not usually eaten as an entree as we do here.

                    And for sugar? For old school Thai like my wife's parents, and new school Thai like my wife, the sweetness they find here in the Thai food is an abomination to the way they currently eat it and prepare it. It is NOT to say that no Thai food is sweet. It IS to say the ALL Thai food should NOT be sweetened as it tends to be in this market.

                    Thai food in Las Vegas, at Pongsri in NYC, in Thai Town in LA, among many others, is NOT sweetened like it is here. It seems to be a peculiarly MN phenomenon. We can disagree with what "Sweetened" may really mean, but as I've mentioned in other posts, I live in Bangkok two or three months of every year. The food between here and there is vastly different from a sweetness standpoint, but not so different when compared to Thai food in other markets in the US that I have become familiar with.

                    1. re: HuaGung

                      I recently had equally sweet pad thai in two Thai restaurants in Washington, DC, so I was assuming it wasn't just Minnesota.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. My wife and I were borned and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. We have stayed here in US almost 10 years and usually back home twice a year. We have been in this restaurant for a quite few times. Their food was very impressive, including a service. It is a Thai food. All ingredients are fresh. Fresh spring roll sauce, Chilly with gallic and its spice, was killing me. The main dishes that we had so far were Pad Thai, Green Curry, Drunken Noodle and Roast duck curry. All are delicious. I could not find any thing close to this in town. The other thing that I like in this restaurant is the limited in Menu items, not like the others. You can't make 50 items or more Thai dishes in Minneasota... You don't have ingredients.

              If you're asking me about real authentic ( I laugh when people saying this ), my answer would be.... None because Restuarant can't find a real ingrediant or if they could, Are customer willing to pay 30% more per dish on Thai food ?
              What I ask myself, Who is the closest one with the right price, service and ambient ? I go for it and for Thai food. It is " Kindee"

              7 Replies
              1. re: superhumdog

                This is quite an educational conversation, thanks to all who are participating.
                I have to add that of course, I have asked servers at more than one place,
                including Pad Thai on Grand, that served me sugary pad thai, if this was authentic to Thailand and they all said 'yes', but also advised me that in the future
                I could ask ahead of time to leave out the sugar.

                1. re: faith

                  Faith, "authentic" pad thai has sugar in it, it's just that you don't want sugar to be the only flavor note in the dish. As with many Thai dishes, it should be a balance of many complex flavors, hot, sour, salty, sweet... Also, textures, cold and crunchy (the green onions and the sprouts and the peanuts) and warm and soft (the noodles). Not just some syrupy, gloppy pile of noodles. The latter is what I've had at places like True Thai in Minneapolis that I just can't bear. Compare what you've had in the Twin Cities (I haven't been to Pad Thai on Grand) to this photo from Curt the Soi Hound

                  Thai food genuinely should have a bit of sweetness and spicyness, it's just that those shouldn't be the only flavor notes. That's why when people measure Thai dishes only by their sweetness or by their spiciness I think they're still missing something. To me, eating a Thai dish is as if each bites takes you on a journey of tastes. At first it's it's tangy and a little sweet, then the heat kicks in, then you get that taste of fish sauce at the back end. Like you could argue with your dining companion what the predominant flavor was because all the flavors were present, but not muddled.

                  Here's a thread about it on the General Topics Board.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I completely agree with everything you said above except the opening phrase. True Phad Thai shouldn't be, and in Thailand usually isn't, served with the sugar IN it, nor the ground hot pepper, nor the ground peanuts, nor the bean sprouts. As your picture shows, these spices and accompaniments are individaully piled on the side of the dish so that the eater can choose which ones he wants and the quantity he wants and he mixes it all together. Unfortunately, I have never found a stateside Thai restaurant that does it this way.

                    1. re: ThaiNut

                      Thank you, ThaiNut for the clarification. You are absolutely correct (of course!) When you find a place here in the Twin Cities that comes close, you'll come back and tell us about it, right?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Absolutely! My wife and I would love to be your Thai food critics and we'd tear into your local Thai places like a pair of heat seeking missiles; that is just as soon as someone pays for our trip there from here in western NC.

                      2. re: ThaiNut

                        Okay, sorry to obsess over this, but, the next time she is at Pad Thai, instead of asking them to leave the sugar out, would faith perhaps be better off asking them to put it and the other things on the side like they do in Thailand? Would that work?


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          In a word, no. I spent several years living extremely close to Pad Thai on grand (including a several month stint in the apartments upstairs of it) and im afraid theres no avoiding the incredibly sweet pad thai there, unless you order the pad thai with sriracha (possibly not the name on the menu) that used to be number 702 - its not necessarily any less sweet but there is more spicy to try to balance out the one notedness of their "traditional" (non-spicy) pad thai.

                2. The original comment has been removed