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Kinnaree Thai on Ellesmere at Pharmacy - What's good there?

I like the menu a lot. Seems fairly purist with a few deep fried nods to the neighbourhood. What's it like to dine in and what dishes would you recommend?

Without wanting to sound like too much of a jerk, I'll say it anyway. I was spoiled at my last condo by being within 5 minutes walking distance to both Mengrai and Sukho Thai. I don't need it to be of that high a standard, but if I see ketchup I'll be taking my leave.

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  1. Lunch package: pad thai, mango salad & spring roll. The mango salad is very fresh and reminded me of years-gone-by mango salad from Thai Shan Inn. Pad thai is not ketchupy. I'll pass the spring roll. IMHO nothing beats Indonesian spring rolls (with bamboo shoot, shrimp & pork fillings).

    Dinner. Tom Yum soup is decent. Beef massaman is very good, thick coconut sauce, real south east asian spices with heat.

    Service is very attentive. First time we went, we forgot to mention not to sprinkle peanuts since my son is allergic to. 2nd time and subsequent visits - they asked "'without peanuts?". We really appreciate this.

    I don't venture downtown other than bringing visitors or for theater show. I have not tried downtown great Thai restaurants so can't compare the quality.
    Kinnaree lady cook is from Thailand. Definitely she uses asian spices and don't dilute/tame them to cater to those who aren't used to.

    1 Reply
    1. re: knusprig

      The story of them recalling your son's allergy to peanuts after only one visit is enough reason for me. That's the level of care one should always show. The fact that Massaman Beef is one of my fave dishes is just icing. Thanks.

    2. is this the former location of "Thai angels"?

      1 Reply
      1. We tried this place on Saturday night - it was empty when we arrived but filled up closer to 7. We tried the coconut soup, the beef massaman and the golden curry with chicken. It was so good I was still thinking about it the next day. I’ve never tried coconut soup but my boyfriend has, and I was expecting it to be sweet. Instead it was very flavourful with a lot of depth – you could taste the sweetness of the coconut broth but it wasn’t overwhelming, as well as all the other seasoning. It was a light and refreshing soup – ours had chicken and mushrooms, but they had other meat/meatless versions. Next were our curries – nicely presented in porcelain bowls, and garnished well, we dug in. The beef massaman was spicier than I was expecting but in a good way – it had a nice kick to it, and it wasn’t just on one note. The vegetables and meat were generous in both curries. I really enjoyed the flavor of the massaman. Then we dug into the yellow curry – I was hoping the curry would have a distinctly different taste, as too often I find places will use the same base and just make minor changes. This was definitely different in terms of flavour, a little milder, but still had a bit of spice. We really enjoy spicy food so this was a nice surprise, but I’m sure they would turn down the heat level for anyone who preferred less. At this point we were stuffed, and the servings were very large so we had more than half left, but since I was craving something sweet, we had the sticky coconut rice with mango. This was nothing extraordinary but not overwhelmingly sweet, so a nice finish to the meal. The service was great, although a touch slow – there was only one person manning the room though so it was understandable and he was very apologetic for the delay – but our food came out relatively fast, it was just a bit of a wait to get the bill, nothing major though. The people were very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in what we’d thought – we both loved it and will definitely be going back. It’s a cute, clean place and they seem to really put their heart into their cooking. It looked like they had a lot of take-out (and maybe even delivery) business going on at the front of the restaurant, so I hope they continue to do well. They also serve halal meat for those that only eat halal. The menu was very extensive, so I’m excited to go back and try some more options, but I’m still craving some more of that beef massaman! My boyfriend has always told me that there weren’t any good Thai places in his area, so we were really excited to find this gem thanks to CH!

        4 Replies
        1. re: apple_pie

          To me, Massaman beef is Thai comfort food. I really have to go with Beau soon. Thanks for the interesting write-up.

          1. re: Googs

            Since Thai Plate, on Bathurst St. north of Lawrence Ave.) went belly up some months ago, I've been casting about for a replacement in north Toronto that doesn't take me more than 20 minutes from my humble lodgings near Yonge and York Mills. Now, thanks to an offhand tip on another thread on this board, I think I've found it: Kinnaree, in a small strip plaza on Ellesmere Rd. just east of Victoria Park Ave. I don't know how it compares to Khao San Road or Sukhothai, the two downtown Thai shrines, having never noshed at those exalted places. And it's no match for the range of menu and deft execution of Lotus of Siam, in Las Vegas, long regarded as the best Thai in North America, where I invariably get to when I'm in that town. But as a suburban Thai joint in Toronto, Kinnaree is pretty damn good. The menu is similarly comprehensive to the late Thai Plate's, as are the prices (about $5 for soups, $8 for salads, $9-$11 for most mains). Portions are substantial (two light eaters could easily share a main, for example). And everything has, as noted above on another post, a depth of flavour, unmatched by many of the uptown Thai spots I've tried. I was with a friend who'd just come off a two-week cycling (and overeating) tour of Thailand. And after getting over his disappointment at there not being Khao Soi on the menu - a difficult dish to replicate well in Canada - he dived right in and pronounced everything else he ate reasonably close to what he'd browsed on in the restos, markets, alleyways and street stalls of Thailand. We shared soups, a first-rate mango salad, a pad thai and a chicken mussaman (and a couple of Thai beers), and left (with a doggie bag) well fed, content, and feeling that all's right with the world. Clean room, nice decor, good service, a modest bill. Not much action in the dining room for a Thursday night, but a steady stream of takeout. Next time I get the urge, I'll be back to give the rest of the menu a workout. To whoever tipped me off to this joint, much thanks.

            1. re: juno

              That'd be knusprig who gave the original tip. So yeah, thank YOU knusprig.

              1. re: Googs

                thanks for the credit ... but truly we have to thank chow-smfan who mentioned Kinnaree on this thread

                otherwise I would not know its existence.

        2. I'll answer my own question. The "red curry shrimp with pineapple and lychee" is the sort of dish I could eat all day. Wonderful big flavours in the curry, fat tender shrimp, and a 1-2 punch from the fruit. Outstanding.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Googs

            Thanks, I'll note that for my next visit. The one dish I've always ordered so far is their mango salad.

            1. re: Googs

              That sounds delish. When I lived in Van there was a Thai place up the street that had a red duck curry that I loved! Thus sounds like a similar flavour profile, if that makes any sense, and I've been looking to satisfy that craving!

            2. Nice. I tried Thai Angels a couple of times and was not impressed. Will definitely check this place out.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Pincus

                If you like chicken satay, their's is worth a try. The chicken pieces weren't skimpy, say about an inch-1.25" wide. If you order them, they're big enough for 4 people to share easily. They come with what was clearly house-made peanut sauce and a lovely chili dip served separately so you can go sweet & salty or sweet & hot or all of the above if you like.

                They're not reinventing any wheels here. They're just giving proper care to the classics.

                1. re: Googs

                  That's all I usually want. :)

                  1. re: Googs

                    I work up that way one day a week and I've been a few times. The lunch specials are great value with a large mango salad included. Like most mango salads in the city, it's a bit sweet and lacking in heat, acid and fish sauce, but refreshing. I find the curries very tasty but a bit thin. Overall, better than average.

                    1. re: hal2010

                      We just had lunch at Kinnaree and wow was it good. Spring rolls were excellent.I had the Red Chicken Curry [extra spicy] and my husband had the Spicy Beef .All was delicious !!! Can't wait to go back.
                      The owner was a very nice sweet man and he said he also does a lot of catering and they are open 7 days a week.
                      there are several other restaurants there in that strip. Any one tried the others?

                      1. re: wylie1

                        If you like Hakka, China Cottage is pretty good. They have a very reasonable lunch special.

                2. Ordered take out last night. We had the appetizer plate (cold roll, chicken satay, wontons, shrimp rolls, shrimp chips), an order of spring rolls, red curry beef, mango chicken, pad thai, and mixed vegetables.

                  The verdict - we'd order it again. The food came in fresh and delicious. The cold rolls were fresh and very tasty, spring rolls were flavourful. Pad thai was very nice. I found the red curry a little thin -a lot of gravy not a lot of "stuff" The only miss was the curry beef. The beef was sliced so thin like for a rare beef pho and it was dry and chewy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Apple

                    Possibly an off beef dish. I've found their curries to be reasonably stocked. For beef, we've had the yellow curry and the massaman and both, while not chock-a-block, were fairly generous. YMMV. Please let me know what else you try.

                    1. re: Googs

                      We'll definitely give it another try. Everything else was good so I was a little surprised. We would love to add it to our regular rotation.

                  2. Went with a couple of co-workers for lunch yesterday and had a good experience. We started with mango salads and vegetable soup. I would go back just for the mango salad alone. The mangos were nice and ripe, which I prefer over the more firm and less sweet variety. The portion of the salad was very generous given the fact that it was a starter that came with the lunch special. It was very well seasoned and it was a very refreshing start to the meal.

                    The vegetable soup was well enjoyed by the other co-worker, but between the two, I would go with the salad.

                    We ordered a couple of pad thais and a red curry with chicken. The pad thais were tasty and I did not taste any hints of ketchup. It was a little wet to my liking but that's just my personal taste. I prefer the version by Sukothai, but for Scarborough, Kinnaree is more than sufficient especially given the price. The red curry was also pretty good but lacked a little heat. My co-worker asked for extra spicy, but it had more of a sweeter taste to it than hot. With that said, he finished his whole dish in less than 3 minutes, so I take it he liked it.

                    Service was attentive and our water glasses were filled without request and the owner(husband?) asked us how were were enjoying our food midway thorough our meal. It's a small thing, but you'll be surprised how often patrons are ignored once the food arrives.

                    Seems like its a husband and wife run operation and they were very friendly. Overall, it is another good lunch option in Scarborough and I will return to try other items on the menu.

                    Thanks for the recommendation knusprig and googs and keep uncovering these little hole in the wall places in Scarborough for us!

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ragged25

                      With pleasure.

                      It is, indeed, a husband and wife operation. It's my most fervent hope that they become successful enough that they can close maybe a day or two a week and get the break they so richly deserve.

                      1. re: Googs

                        It is pretty funny how they actually have something to the effect of "run and operated by authentic Thai chef" on their banner to let people know they are the real deal.

                        The husband was wearing a sweater with big "Thailand" on it. Haha.

                        As another poster stated, we could hear the wok going after we've placed our order, and we were sitting at the back of the restaurant. Sounded like a big giant wok they were using. Haha!

                        But ya, the couple seemed very friendly and let's hope they get a little busier because like many hole in the walls in Scarborough, you need the word of mouth.

                        1. re: ragged25

                          while the place is good for scarborough ... i dont' think it holds a candle to the downtown real deal restaurants like sukhothai.
                          i found kinnaree's pad thai tastes of ketchup....
                          several of the dishes were ok but some lacked depth of the flavour.
                          i would still go back but i think i would temper my expectations that i had the first time i went.

                          1. re: plug

                            When did you go?

                            Having lived for years within a 5 minute walk of Sukho Thai, I had cause to eat their food regularly. It was perhaps the least consistent restaurant I've experienced. One day amazing, the next far less than ordinary. I always preferred Mengrai so long as Sasi was in the house.

                            I think Kinnaree is geared to what's been demanded of them so far. The more patrons who know and love the cuisine that show up and ask for the real deal, the more will be delivered. It's clear all of the basics are in the right place. The flavours could be less subtle I suppose. For the record, there is zero ketchup in the pad thai.

                            1. re: Googs

                              i went to kinnaree about 2 months ago.
                              sukho thai can be inconsistent yes.. but a few of their dishes are always solid like the khao soi.. that never disappoints... same with the pad kee mao... but the pad thai, however can be overly sweet on some days.
                              im quite surprised that theres not ketchup in kinnaree's pad thai... it looked kinda of reddish the day i went and didn't have the hue consistent with tamarind.
                              my favourite uptown thai restaurant is probably Thai Basil on major mack. and despite their consistency issues... i still rank sukhothai/khao san road/sabai sabai as my top go to places.

                              1. re: plug

                                No ketchup, I assure you.

                                I never meant that people should leave downtown and make the trek to Scarborough. Kinnaree does mean that leaving the east end and making the trip downtown isn't nearly as worth it. It can only get better.

                                1. re: Googs

                                  I agree with Googs as this is a perfect lunch spot for me as it is only a 5 minute drive away.

                                  I am curious to your comment Googs: "I think Kinnaree is geared to what's been demanded of them so far. The more patrons who know and love the cuisine that show up and ask for the real deal, the more will be delivered."

                                  Are you implying that there is a even more authentic preparation on some of the dishes upon request? I understand that the chef might be holding back a little in terms of flavour to suit the general public. I am curious to find out whether it would be possible to have an even more authentic experience.

                                  1. re: ragged25

                                    The thing I like most about Thai cuisine is the nuance. It's about the layering of flavours, not heat. She hits all the right notes in the right places. It could be a *bit* less subtle. That's pretty nitpicky, I'd say.

                                    At this time, Plug's "Downtown vs Scarborough" observation is a fair one. It's not Zen or Fratelli Village Pizzeria that are every bit as good or better than downtown offerings. It's more like Blackhorn Steakhouse or Diana's Oyster Bar. They have good food and service, nice seating, and don't require the 90 minute round trip to Barberian's, Starfish, or Mengrai.

                                    Being on the scale that they're on, it's easy to turn them into your own special place. Easy to ask for things to be tweaked your way.

                    2. Re: ketchup in pad thai. We ate at Kinnaree last week with the hope that the pad thai is without ketchup. Not the case. I have a life threatening allergy and always, always double, triple check. And was told by our server (who I believe is the owner) that there is ketchup in the pad thai. However I thoroughly, and safely, enjoyed the tangy cocunut soup and the peanut curry.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dory

                        Well that isn't what we were told by the other owner a/k/a her husband. I wonder if they resort to it when they run out of tamarind? I guess it's a mystery to be solved.