Every year I try to get a group of friends together to try out a new restaurant for NYC restaurant week. The past few times our plans had fallen through, but this year I was determined to get into the city. There are a lot of opinions on this twice yearly tradition of restaurant week. There are those who hate their favorite spots being flushed with newcomers and most likely one time diners. Others think the entire “promotion” is a rip off because smaller portions are often served and items that aren’t on the regular menu are presented (Those who have worked in the industry will understand this most likely means items will cut costs, are about to go bad, in excess, or they want the diner to be a guinea pig for a new idea). But there are also the people (like me) who see it as an opportunity (and excuse!) to try out restaurants they might not otherwise be able to afford on a regular basis.
The décor was eye catching with brilliantly lit vases with flowers in them, a large pond with floating candles in the center of the dining room, and wooden accents to tone down the bright lights of the other decor. It was a perfect symmetry of light and dark.
We noticed that the menu not only had the $38 restaurant week Pre-Fixe menu but, it also featured 2 other pre-selected menu’s (for slightly higher prices) to choose from as well. Each menu had a $15 wine pairing option for your 3 courses. We stuck with the restaurant week menu but did add on the 3 course wine pairing (you can’t beat $15…but I will admit they were half glasses). We also threw in some side dishes to split with our table.
I started with a cocktail before our wine flight began. It was a salted plum brandy with vanilla essence and orange peel. It reminded me of a whiskey sour. It had a great balance of sweet and tart.
I chose the Wild Mushroom Dumplings for my appetizer course. The dumplings were just slightly crispy and they came with a soy coconut foam sauce that I could have licked the platter trying not to waste any. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. I also tried the Hot and Sour Seafood Soup, the Duck Confit Salad, and the Crispy Rock Shrimp. ALL of them were delicious…but I thought my dumplings took the cake on that course. The wine selected for the appetizers was a Riesling. It is not usually my favorite varietal however; I thought it paired nicely to offset the heavy spices that were in each of the dishes.
For my main course I chose the Braised Pork Cheek that paired with spiced palm sugar braise, truffle powder, and steamed buns. Whoa. These pork buns were awesome! I didn’t even want to share (Luckily 3 of the 5 of us ordered this dish so I didn’t have to share too much!). I nibbled on the Crispy Branzino and Chili-Smoked Hanger Steak from my dining companions as well. This place really understands how to pack in flavors. Our side dishes included the Roti with a Peanut Curry dipping sauce, Charred Cauliflower (SO good!), Stir-fried Jasmine Rice with Sausage and Cashews, and Stir-Fried Vegetables with Garlic and Ginger Soy Sauce. The wine presented for the main dishes was a Pinot Noir. It was light and fruity but a bit forgettable.
The portions were smaller so I was able to try everything on the table and still have room for dessert. I went for the Black Cardamom Lava Cake with Thai Basil Ice Cream. I love chocolate and the lava cake was a hit. However; I want to highlight how refreshingly good the Thai Basil Ice Cream was. I always wonder if the trend to put savory flavors into ice cream will work. This one did. It ended my dinner on a high note. Our pairing for the dessert was a sparkling wine. It was perfect for a cheers with good friends over the great meal we had just indulged in.
This meal truly blew me away. I do have to admit that you are a bit fooled by the low price tag of $38. You can’t help but be suckered into drinks and side dishes so our bill was a lot heftier than that original price tag. But I do not intend to become a one and done customer at Kittichai. I can’t wait to go back and try more of what they have to offer.