Make room for modern Thai
Neighborhood restaurant Kiin has personality and flavor, but needs to try harder
Posted: October 23, 2013
Prague has its fair share of good Thai restaurants, but the Žižkov/Vinohrady area has been sadly lacking one for some time. Kiin Modern Thai Restaurant opened in early May to very little fanfare. It's in the basement space formerly occupied by the ill-fated Soave Italian restaurant, on a quiet residential street between Jiřího z Poděbrad and Flora.
Perhaps it was the inconspicuous location, the lack of passing traffic, or the fact that it still looked so similar to Soave (it was a few weeks before the old signs on the exterior were painted over, after all) but this new Thai upstart, with its modern fusion menu full of quirkily named dishes, didn't seem to be attracting much attention.
Jagellonská 1239/24, Prague 3
Tel. 728 889 999
Open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m, Sat.-Sun. 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Pok Pok: spicy chicken wings 69 kč
Almost Naked: summer rolls with salmon and dill 79 kč
Lonesome Heart: glazed duck breast 185 kč
Paranoid Android: tiger prawn ravioli 175 kč
BFF: mini banana strudels with coconut mango sauce 49 kč
Cafe Gournand: selection of mini desserts and coffee 99 kč
Espresso 35 kč
0.5L Pilsner 35 kč
0.2L Baron de Rothschild bordeaux 110 kč
0.2L Neuberger 55kč
Overall 3* (out of 5*)
Since it opened, the place has often been half-full at best in the evenings and only slightly busier at lunchtime. There were only two other tables of two in the main dining area on a recent visit, shortly after the menu was revamped in early October.
One surprising thing about the menu is its prices. Despite being in a relatively upscale area, a stone's throw from some pricey specialty food shops and delis, the food at Kiin is very reasonably priced, with the most expensive dish on the menu coming in at 225kč and most starters and desserts under 100kč.
The restaurant's interior hasn't changed a great deal since it was home to Soave, but the clean design with exposed brickwork, minimal table décor and retro black-and-white wall art, all brightened by touches of lime green - gives the dining room an energetic, modern feel.
Despite the restaurant being mostly empty on our recent visit, the low lights and quiet music made for a cozy enough atmosphere - or would have done, if it wasn't for the loud party in what's advertised as the "private dining area," an adjoining space which in reality is semi-private at best. The acoustics and minimal décor throughout the space meant the noise was echoed and amplified, and far from giving the whole place a lively buzz, it just meant diners in the main part of the room had trouble hearing each other speak across the table and were inadvertently joining the party, which was more than a bit awkward.
After 20 minutes of attempting - and failing - to talk over the party and its by then rather loud singing, our starters finally arrived. Almost Naked was the name for two large summer rolls with salmon and dill, halved and bursting mainly with crisp salad leaves, carrot and glass noodles. The small amount of smoked salmon in there tasted exceptionally fresh. This starter seemed too big and could have been more enjoyable if the same amount of salmon had been used for just one roll.
Despite a 10 Kč price difference, a much smaller starter option was Pok Pok, two tender, glazed whole chicken wings that packed a decently spicy punch, on a bed of warm, citrusy carrot salad which was slightly crunchy and had a slow-building heat of its own.
Before we'd got halfway through these starters, though, we were unpleasantly surprised when our main course made an early appearance at the table. If the kitchen was struggling that much to keep track of orders with just the five tables sitting down by then (the big party had finished eating) I dread to think how they'd handle a full dining room; though if they're making errors like this regularly, having too many customers won't be something they'll need to worry about.
After spending 10 minutes sitting on the side getting cold, these dishes probably weren't as good as they could have been. Lonesome Heart was a crispy roast duck breast glazed with chili garlic & ginger sauce, served on a bed of red lentils cooked in spices and coconut milk. Had this dish been a movie, its star would have been the sweet glaze on the perfectly crisp skin. The duck breast itself was slightly overcooked, bordering on chewy in some places, and without even the slightest hint of pink. Being so well-done, the meat could merely play a supporting role. The lentils meanwhile had a gentle heat, and worked well with the other flavors on the plate.
The rather luxurious-sounding tiger shrimp ravioli with truffle oil and coconut butter sauce, known as Paranoid Android, was a decent sized bowl of flat parcels which had a slightly sloppy consistency - the pasta was overcooked and had lost any shape it might have had, and the filling was just as soft. The shrimp seemed elusive and could barely be tasted, though that was partly because the rich truffle oil and coconut butter sauce, though very tasty, was slightly overpowering. The dish turned out to be more comfort food than exciting Thai fusion.
The 2010 bordeaux we tried was distinctly average, and slightly disappointing at 110 Kč a 0.2 liter glass, while the 2012 Neuburger was a mild, dry white at exactly half the price. A half-litre of Pilsner Urquell, on tap, cold and well-poured on this and previous visits, is 35 Kč.
Dessert was the high point of the meal. For those who find it impossible to choose, Café Gourmand' is a set of three small desserts of the chef's choosing, with either a ristretto, espresso or lungo coffee. This time, it included a miniature version of the Candy Coated Cloud, or pandan crème brûlée. It was much lighter than the traditional version, with a thin glaze of caramelized sugar, and a slightly floral taste and hint of green color from the pandan leaf.
There was also a small square of the Happy Ending chocolate fondant, which was more like a brownie in taste and texture, and a square of cassava cake; firm, spongy and far less sweet than a western-style sponge cake, gently flavored with cassava (tapioca root).
We also tried the BFF, described as wrapped mini banana strudels on a bed of coconut and mango sauce. Whilst the six delicate parcels were more like mini spring rolls than strudels, the warm, soft banana inside the crispy wrapping was a delight, complemented well by sauce, which wasn't overly sweet. The coffee meanwhile was, perhaps surprisingly, of a higher standard than that found in many coffee shops. A stop here for dessert and coffee alone would be worthwhile.
Kiin has a lot of potential. It's creative, unique, and offers the chance to try new and unusual flavor combinations in an informal setting with friendly, knowledgeable staff. There's plenty of room for improvement though, with some aspects of the food as well as ambiance and waiting times, but if Kiin sets its sights a little higher it could yet become one of the area's more popular restaurants.
Clare Speak can be reached at