A reminder if you're heading to a restaurant or other food-and-drink establishment: Please be cautious out there. Eat at a patio if you can. If you can’t, keep at least six feet distance from other parties, don’t touch your face, sanitize and wash your hands constantly, and wear a mask if possible.
This is the first time I've ever been face to face with pad Thai tucked inside an omelet. It's a warm, but inviting afternoon on the patio at Kin Dee, and I'm excited to be out tasting new food. Especially this food, because it's pad Thai tucked inside an omelet.
Kin Dee is the creation of friends and Thailand natives Lukkaew Srasrisuwan and Miranda Leotkhamfu, and is set at the emerging Market at Houston Heights development at 1533 N Shepherd Dr. It's clean and ultra-modern with bold red and gold splashes, high-top tables, a bar in the back, and a patio overlooking busy Shepherd. You can sit in a white chair with a red pillow and enjoy lunch while cars whoosh by on their way toward the North Loop.
Part of the goal here is to expose guests to modern interpretations of Thai, as found in its distinct regions: North, Northeast, Central, and South. For instance, up north you'll find food known as Lanna, defined by its more balanced flavor composition, proving salty and sour as much as spicy. At Kin Dee there's the warming khao soi, or thin coconut curry with both boiled and deep-fried noodles. It has heat, but it's there for enhancement more than shock value.
Northeast Thai food, or Issan, is characterized by heart-pumping spices and a slightly more rustic approach. The popular lahp, or larb, comes from here, as do dishes like yum nam sod (pork sausage with mint, lime juice, ginger, chilis) that you can find at Street Food Thai Market. At Kin Dee, the papaya salad, or som tum, is a close approximation to its Issan cousin, though it takes more after the dialed-down version found in central Thailand. You'll also get some seafood-heavy southern Thai dishes at Kin Dee, such as the fun "casseroled" shrimp and veggies served in a pot of bean crystal noodles that shimmer and slip easily off chopsticks.
In the central part of the country, home to the capital city, Bangkok, street foods like chicken satay, grilled pork skewers, Thai-style fried rice, and Tom Yum soup can be easily found. At Kin Dee, all of these dishes are available, along with dainty and pretty Thai flower dumplings made from butterfly-pea flower herbs. Those herbs also make a refreshing and sweet tea drink that's worth ordering with your meal.
Pad Thai falls into that street food category as much as any dish, and it's the most ubiquitous Thai food Americans know. But at Kin Dee, it's all hidden inside that fluffy and sunshine yellow omelet. Srasrisuwan says this is how many people eat pad Thai in her home country, and after one bite, letting the sweet egg work in tandem with the nutty and tart flavors of the perfectly prepared noodles, I'm hooked. It's how I want to eat all pad Thai from now on.
With a good and relatively inexpensive lineup across the board (entrees are generally between $15 and $20), plus a few surprises, Kin Dee makes a fine addition to an area with a burgeoning restaurant scene. For Heights residents, it can easily slide into a regular dining rotation.