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Kittichai


ewindels
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was it diff. to get reservations?

I don't think it was that hard to get reservations, but I think it has been closed randomly for private parties. I had originally wanted to go on a Sunday, and the reservationist seemed exasperated (this is second hand, I wasn't the one who called) that we weren't aware they were closed that date for some fete or another.

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QUOTE (Krista G @ Jul 29 2004, 12:51 AM)

I've never seen calamansi (or kalamansi, whichever you prefer) in the U.S. 

Check with the Thai store on Mosco St. in Chinatown to see whether they have any. I'd also check Udon's Thai-Indonesian store, though I don't remember them carrying fresh fruit.

i moved out of ny about 4 months ago now, but the last tim i checked, the Mosco St. grocery had calamansi juice, but no fresh limes. Cynical as i am, i have to assume that they use the bottled juice in restaurants, since the fruit isn't easy to obtain in the US.

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That sizzling sound you hear is not the endless drops of my sweat hitting the scorching pavement, but the level of fabulous at Kittichai reaching critical mass. The crowds of downtown-trender-wannabes now thronging the restaurant overshadow the place’s own fairly dazzling décor. Marvel at the $1,000 shoes, the $500 haircuts, the $400 low cut jeans worn by women who really shouldn’t, the lift jobs and pneumatical enhancements. One case in point, of an age made indeterminate by copious amounts of surgery, was draped strategically on one of the immaculate white daybeds in the bar area, a delicate pink and orange organza shift barely containing the bust which she had perhaps had enhanced a little too much, as evidenced by the recline she was forced to adopt to keep from toppling forward. The front-of-house staff loses nothing to their customers: both male and female hosts, lithe and sinewy, have obviously been sent to severe classes in runway walking and posturing.

Well, if you can take your eyes off the endless floor show and drown out the increasing din as the night wears on, the food is still pretty spectacular. This time I had three companions with me (including, yes, the eternally be-Chooed Elvira, Mistress of the Dark), allowing a greater sampling of the menu than before. More of those awesome crispy jasmine rice crackers with their tangy chicken, shrimp, coconut and cilantro dipping sauce, a great way to start any meal. The foie gras was luscious (when isn’t it?) with a pineapple marmalade, as were jumbo prawns with grapefruit and a citrus dressing. But the Thai beef salad was the real marvel, just the right amount of spice and heat to make your tongue sizzle.

Entrees impress, although the featured ingredients tend to rate second-tier status to the panoply of spices and flavors, making most of them interchangeable. Lamb, fork tender and served with foie gras and eggplant, could have been any number of other meats, and the duck with Chai-Mai glaze and mangos was mistaken by all of us for pork (but really tasty pork). The Chilean sea bass (“with morning glory”, which looks and tastes an awful lot like rapini) was repeated and pronounced a hit by all, although the actual fish itself was slightly lesser quality than on my first visit. This is all de-rigeur fusion, and those looking for a more authentic experience would probably do well to stick with one of the three curries, particularly the short ribs.

The girls insisted on the pineapple rice, which once again didn’t thrill me – too sweet, too busy, and pointless beside everything going on in the other dishes. You can’t beat the plain steamed jasmine rice.

I’m not sure which of the three scoops in the Thai tea ice cream sundae with fruits was the eponymous one (we tasted orange, pistachio and coconut), but it’s a winner. Frozen white chocolate parfait with a scoop of coconut ice actually had more of cheesecake consistency than the name would lead you to believe, but was luscious nonetheless. The killer was the flourless chocolate cake, served on a banana leaf with a cherry compote: deep but not overly intense chocolate flavor, excellent texture.

The full menu can now be accessed here. $97 a person, including God knows how many of the amazing ginger and lemongrass puree highballs. And despite a substantial amount of food, there’s never a sense of surfeit, although those highballs do come back to haunt you next morning – but boy, is it worth it.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

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QUOTE (Krista G @ Jul 29 2004, 12:51 AM)

I've never seen calamansi (or kalamansi, whichever you prefer) in the U.S. 

Check with the Thai store on Mosco St. in Chinatown to see whether they have any. I'd also check Udon's Thai-Indonesian store, though I don't remember them carrying fresh fruit.

i moved out of ny about 4 months ago now, but the last tim i checked, the Mosco St. grocery had calamansi juice, but no fresh limes. Cynical as i am, i have to assume that they use the bottled juice in restaurants, since the fruit isn't easy to obtain in the US.

My local Thai grocer (in Poughkeepsie!) has them. I think she gets her supplies from Manhattan Chinatown. She tells me they are grown in Florida and Hawaii.

Edited to add: If you want to know, I can ask which shop/supplier she gets them from. I'm pretty sure they're calamansi and not key limes as they're pretty small.

Edited by Laksa (log)
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QUOTE (Krista G @ Jul 29 2004, 12:51 AM)

I've never seen calamansi (or kalamansi, whichever you prefer) in the U.S. 

Check with the Thai store on Mosco St. in Chinatown to see whether they have any. I'd also check Udon's Thai-Indonesian store, though I don't remember them carrying fresh fruit.

i moved out of ny about 4 months ago now, but the last tim i checked, the Mosco St. grocery had calamansi juice, but no fresh limes. Cynical as i am, i have to assume that they use the bottled juice in restaurants, since the fruit isn't easy to obtain in the US.

My local Thai grocer (in Poughkeepsie!) has them. I think she gets her supplies from Manhattan Chinatown. She tells me they are grown in Florida and Hawaii.

Edited to add: If you want to know, I can ask which shop/supplier she gets them from. I'm pretty sure they're calamansi and not key limes as they're pretty small.

I'm curious if they exist in the U.S. because I have a weird fascination with kalamansi and Filipino foodstuffs in general. (Early in the year I was predicting they would become the "it" citrus for 2004, but I think finger limes are becoming oddly trendy instead). I think they're actually a little bigger than key limes and contain bigger seeds than typical limes, but I'm certainly not a citrus expert.

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Gael Green's blurb from today's New York Magazine:

Cocoa-dusted ribs that didn’t work on first tasting definitely do now. The kitchen remains uneven, but I’ll be back for short-rib curry, braised black cod in lime-coriander broth, Chilean sea bass with morning glory, and rare honey-glazed duck.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

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Mr. Chalermkittichai also makes concessions to the whims of his own imagination. He uses cocoa powder, apple butter and A1 steak sauce for a glaze on baby back ribs, which he unabashedly advertises as "chocolate back ribs." Do not cringe: when I had them, they were delightful, because the meat really did fall from the bones and the hint of chocolate was just that, a hint, not an emphatic statement.
The entrees to steer away from are the prawns, which were unpleasantly salty, and the duck, which was tough. No-go appetizers include a frenetically busy Thai fruit and vegetable salad, an almost-as-busy prawn and citrus salad and a carpaccio of bluefin tuna, which was simply ordinary.

Kittichai (Frank Bruni)

Soba

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I got a good laugh out of this line:

And that trusted warhorse of Thai cuisine, seared Hudson Valley foie gras, claims a place among the appetizers.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I think they're actually a little bigger than key limes and contain bigger seeds than typical limes, but I'm certainly not a citrus expert.

I'm a lot more familiar with kalamansi than I am with key limes. We had a kalamansi tree in our house in Malaysia. The fruits were less than 1" in diameter. I seem to remember the keylimes I saw at the supermarket were bigger than that. Just never saw them side by side.

Kalamansi do have rather big seeds for their size. About the same size as orange seeds.

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  • 6 months later...

Has anyone been to Kittichai lately? I went back in the week it opened, and was really impressed with it. That's been about 6 months, and I was wondering if Mr. Chalermkittichai was still cranking out interesting takes on Thai fusion cuisine without being too east-meets-west-y.

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Well - went there again on Monday night and I'd have to say that the kitchen hasn't slipped a bit. And, as a side note, our waitress was the best we've ever had in NYC at any price level. Gracious, courteous, knowledgeable (upon learning of a shellfish allergy of one of our dining companions, she checked with the chef about all of the dishes ordered to make sure none contained shellfish - who knew that Thai beef salad would have oysters in it?), well deserved of a 25% tip. When informing us of the restaurant being sold out of our desired wine, she knowledgably discussed wine options with our table and offered an even better off-menu wine that was $15 less than our original bottle.

As for the food, everything was as good or better than I remembered. The chocolate ribs were decadant, the chicken lollipops crunchy and meaty, and the curries dense and nuanced. (The lamb and monkfish particularly notable.) As for dessert, the trio of ice creams (thai coffee, thai tea, and coconut) was fantastic, as were the kaffir lime tart and mango with tapioca. A bottle of wine (a surprisingly spice-worthy pinot grigio), three apps, five entreés, three sides of rice, five desserts, and two Thai iced coffees came to $250 on the nose with tax, but not tip.

With a beautiful design and great food, this place certainly deserves to be hotter than it is. (Spice Market is the crabapple to Kittichai's Seville orange.)

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While I have yet to eat there, I must say it is one of the most beautiful restaurant spaces I've seen. I will hopefully get a chance to eat there in the not too distant future. It is one of my highest priorities amongst NY restaurants.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Has anyone been to Kittichai lately? I went back in the week it opened, and was really impressed with it. That's been about 6 months, and I was wondering if Mr. Chalermkittichai was still cranking out interesting takes on Thai fusion cuisine without being too east-meets-west-y.

ate here last month.. full all night, but an interesting crowd..

we had an early reservation (7:30) and the place was filled with a good amount of families and possibly out of towners in larger groups.. we left around 9:30 and the bar/lounge of the restaurant was packed with a younger crowd, more groups of girls out for the night, dates, etc.

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  • 2 months later...

I was taken to the Kittichai last night as sort of a surprise. Their roof bar is stunningly beautiful but the brown three-day-old limes in the mojito weren't.

About halfway through dinner a forty-two year old woman in painted on jeans and expensive new breasts dropped her bejeweled purse as she passed by our table. The strap tangled in her seven inch heel as she spun around in circles trying to find a way to pick it up with out bending over. I don't know whether she was afraid of falling or putting the weight of her 85 pound frame on her birdlike ankle. . . anyway all of this was a momentary distraction from the tiny portions of delicious food served in asymmetrical bowls.

Don't you hate it when you ask for tap water and the server says in that very particular tone: "Oh, you're ok with tap water?." Greed masked as condescension. "So you're a cheap bastard hunh?" Service is a funny thing. There were no mistakes, food came right on time, the restaurant was jam-packed and running like a top but the vibe from the waitstaff was terrible. Terrible.

It was so loud in there I could barely hear myself chew. The loudest contributions to the din were the shrieks of men in shiny business suits with unbottoned shirts and pointy shoes. Reading back through the thread, I don't think the menu has changed much. I concur that the green curry was tasty but it doesn't hold a candle to the one a sri pra. Rack of lamb? I know it's a special kind of Thai place. . . there was black cod and lots of good snacky fried things. I think the clientele and general sort of vibe of this restaurant have disabled Kittichai as a place to go to eat food. More like, they feed you surprisingly well if meagerly while you wait to be the subject of some reportage on Entertainment Tonight.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Hey Ned, don't beat around the bush! Tell us how you really feel. :laugh::raz:

Seriously, though, your report is much appreciated. Can anyone else who's been to Kittichai recently confirm or dispute Ned's account?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 3 months later...

Despite having met and liked the chef on a personal level, I did not want to life Kittichai. The thought of going to a trendy restaurant with thumping music and racuous crowd makes me tired even before I could pick up the phone to make a reservation. But, Kittichai proves to be surprising in many ways.

Yes, it was loud and the girl at the next table wore a skirt so short that the hem barely grazed the table tops, but the food was surprisingly elegant. We starated with sime fluke on asparagus and squid roe that was clean and lovely on the tongue. The banana blossom salas by contrast had a beautiful texture and the fried fish balls were on the salty side, but still pleasing to the palate.

Ian sent out a winter soup of creamy tom yom with enoki mushrooms and sea scallops that had the most perfect balance of salty and sour that I've ever tasted in Asian food. It manages to capture the beauty of lime leaves withoutthe soapiness that frequently came with over use.

Main courses were a griled king prawn that was succulent and juicy, a wonderful australian seabass covered in gai-lan puree, and a incredibly light vegetable green curry-here is whee the beautiful technique prevails. Think of green curry anything and you think of the greasy gooey stiff you get from a local thai restaurant. But, Ian's green curry was a light elegant broth with multi-dimensional layers of flavors. There were about seven vegetables in the curry, and ususally, you get one or two vegetables that were done perfectly and the rest poorly. In the best French restaurrants, you may get two or three vegetables done perfectly and the rest passably, At Kittichai, all seven vegetables were executed beautifully, and managed to pick up the flavor of the curry broth. It was perfection. Then there was the side of stirred fried thai watercress-which sounded simple enough but once again, impressively executed. The watercress was crisy, flavorful and perfectly done.

We shared a Thai tea ice cream with sweet jellies on top that cleansed our palate, and a flourless chocolate cake that was steamed in banana leaves, which i did nt like but my dining companions did.

The presentation was lovely, although a bit over dramatic. The service is friendly but slow. And, as I left the restaurant, a woman was walking in with one of her breasts exposed. It's not authentic thai, but who cares. It taste good, and isn't that all it matters?

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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  • 4 years later...

I see it has been about half a decade since anyone has posted about Kittichai. Certainly, I had dismissed the place as too much of a scene. I imagine a lot of people have forgotten about Kittichai over the years, which must be why there was a big PR push at the end of last year. In an attempt to generate some renewed interest, Kittichai sent around gift certificates to media at holiday time at the end of 2009.

I threw my gift certificate in a drawer. The contents of the drawer got dumped into a box. We moved across town. The contents of the box had been sitting on top of a dresser, with the gift certificate on top of the pile. My mother became unexpectedly available for babysitting duty, and we were looking for something to do tonight. "Hey, what about that gift certificate from Kittichai?" Ellen said. I dug it out and made a reservation.

The restaurant remains quite beautiful, with its central pool full of floating candles with orchids suspended above. What has changed, at least based on my observation tonight, is the clientele: the restaurant was full of relatively normal people out for good food. I didn't see a lot of ridiculous outfits, big hair or mismatched couples. Granted it was on the early side but the dining room wasn't loud and the servers were earnest and capable.

Prices are high and portions are small. I probably wouldn't recommend that you pay for a la carte dinner at Kittichai, unless money is no object. There are, however, some prix-fixe options and the prices at lunchtime are much gentler. All that being said, the food we tasted was absolutely delicious. This is contemporary Thai cooking at a high level of finesse, presented attractively on a variety of interesting serveware.

The first thing to hit the table was an appetizer (called tapas on the menu) of chopped chicken, coconut and herbs on top of butter lettuce leaves, arranged so as to make three wraps. Up until we tasted it, we had no expectations. We woke up after the first bite: tremendous complexity of spice, sweetness, acid and salt. Then green papaya and mango salad, with a bracing dose of dried shrimp and a fair amount of heat (though I'd probably request most dishes spicier on a return visit). Chicken soup with coconut and galangal, aka tom kha kai, served in a contraption with a flame underneath and a parchment bowl for the soup, was unusually rich and creamy, with meaty chunks of chicken. At least for the price you get excellent ingredients.

We had two fish entrees: Chilean sea bass glazed with what was basically a better version of Chinese-restaurant sweet-and-sour sauce; and Arctic char in a coconut broth. I know it's a blow to my foodie cred to say so, but I love Chilean sea bass, and this was one of the best uses of that fish I've seen. The Arctic char was a fine piece of fish but the star of that dish was the broth.

We also tried three side dishes: sauteed gai lan with garlic and ginger; tofu and mushrooms over greens (I think they said morning glory, which I guess is water spinach); and Thai omelette with crabmeat and Sriracha sauce. Ellen and I disagreed about the omelette: she felt the crabmeat was unpleasantly denatured, whereas I enjoyed it. The tofu side stole the show: a vegetarian dish to impress a carnivore.

On the last page of the menu is a Monday-only hot-pot offering. We'll definitely be back for that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I was just thinking about Kittichai the other day, as I was looking at the eclectic bunch of restaurants that occupy the five Thompson Hotels in NYC. (The other four restaurants are Plein Sud, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, Shang, and the Libertine.)

Leaving aside Plein Sud (which is too new to judge), it is quite possible—perhaps even likely—that most of these restaurants would be closed by now, if they didn't have a captive hotel clientele to support them.

Kittichai, as I recall, got very good reviews when it opened (including the deuce from Frank Bruni), but it fell off the food industry radar screen. Nobody writes about it any more (and not JUST on eGullet). Nevertheless, I recall having a quite favorable impression when we dined there, not long after it opened. (Here's the blog post I wrote at the time. It seems I had the Chilean Sea Bass too.) Despite liking the place, I haven't been back.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I think it is very difficult to get people into a highnpriced place for what is perceived as every day cuisine. And to me thai food is just that, i just have it way to often to crave it when i am after a big budget dinner.

Also, i think if you launch a place as a "sceny" place i sort of agree with what was said about taylor it is very difficult to turn it around and attract regular diners.

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I think it is very difficult to get people into a highnpriced place for what is perceived as every day cuisine. And to me thai food is just that, i just have it way to often to crave it when i am after a big budget dinner.

With most entrées under $25 and most appetizers under $15, I wouldn't call Kittichai a high-priced place. It may be high-priced in relation to the Thai places you're accustomed to, but I don't consider a place with $25 entrees a "big budget dinner."

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