Here’s happy news for fans of Sriracha-glazed hot wings, spicy papaya salad, and curry-broth khao soi: Kin Khao, Pim Techamuanvivit’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, is back — this time at its new fast-casual outpost in Dogpatch, which opened quietly for takeout and outdoor dining a little over a week ago. This location is serving a concise menu of the restaurant’s bold-flavored greatest hits — plus a few icy new wrinkles meant to help SF diners stay cool during this late-September heat wave. Its cold treats include Riesling slushies, for instance, as well as an assortment of colorful popsicles made with fresh tropical fruit.
In the meantime, the restaurant’s original Union Square location, which went dark at the beginning of shelter-in-place, remains closed for the time being.
Even without any kind of formal announcement, the new location has done brisk business from the jump: It sold 80 orders of khao soi on its first night, Techamuanvivit says. The chef explains that the idea behind the Dogpatch menu was to keep things relatively simple and low-touch — both in the interest of staff and customer safety and as a concession to its space limitations. “When we opened [the Union Square] Kin Khao, I thought we had the world’s smallest kitchen — until this space,” Techamuanvivit says, noting that the new kitchen is about half as large as that one.
It’s a shorter menu, then, but one that should have enough crowd favorites on it to satisfy the cravings of longtime Kin Khao customers who’ve waited patiently for the restaurant to return. Most of the perennial bestsellers from the old Kin Khao lunch menu are here, available all day: the “pretty hot” chicken wings; the northern Thai-style curry-broth khao soi; and, of particular interest to customers grabbing a quick meal on the run, the fried chicken sandwich — featuring a boneless chicken thigh marinated in fish sauce, coconut milk, and the Thai trinity (garlic, pepper, and cilantro root), then deep-fried and topped with Sriracha aioli and a tangy cucumber salad.
There are also a number of grab-and-go salads — a spicy green papaya salad and another featuring Early Girl tomatoes. And in the coming days, Techamuanvivit will add curry noodles — a staple at her Bangkok restaurant Nahm — to the mix: thin, khanom jeen rice noodles served with curry sauce and fresh green herbs on the side. (First up: fish curry.) Everything is served in biodegradable to-go containers, and while there’s no table service, customers are welcome to grab their food and sit down at one of the handful of tables in front of the restaurant.
Of course, here in the Bay Area, this is still the season for sitting outside with something cold to eat or drink, a fact of late-September life accentuated by this week’s heat wave. Luckily, Kin Khao Dogpatch came prepared for that: For dessert, it’s selling an assortment of intensely flavored popsicles made with combinations of fresh fruit: tamarind and chile; watermelon and lime; pandan and coconut; and, Techamuanvivit’s personal favorite, mango and coconut, because “it reminds me of mango sticky rice on a popsicle stick,” she says.
The kitchen team is also pouring bottles of Riesling into a slushie machine to make “Friesling” — a grown-up refreshment the restaurant plans to offer for as long as the weather stays hot. “It’s so mad and so good,” Techamuanvivit says.
Customers looking forward to a return to the full-on Kin Khao in-person dining experience will have to be patient. Because the original Union Square Kin Khao is located on the ground floor of the Parc 55 Hotel, its reopening schedule will be dictated, in large part, by when the hotel decides to open up the building.
Still, Techamuanvivit does offer one more piece of exciting news for SF folks who are comfortable with outdoor dining: This weekend, Nari, Kin Khao’s buzzy Japantown sister restaurant, will open for outdoor dining, with seats for 20 or 30 diners on a brand new patio space that the restaurant has set up out front in the Hotel Kabuki’s circular driveway. It’ll be the first time since the start of the pandemic that Nari will serve a full, dine-in a la carte menu — food “served on real plates,” Techamuanvivit notes, instead of the takeout sets the restaurant is currently selling.
Kin Khao Dogpatch is open at 690 Indiana Street from Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 8 p.m. You can see the menu and order online here.