Kin Thai Cafe brings colors, flavors, textures to life
A Pinterest-perfect restaurant in downtown Medford redefines the region’s notion of Thai food.
Kin Thai Cafe has conjured an airy, soothing, yet sophisticated atmosphere in the former location of Wamba Juice where dozens of customers can dine with plenty of space between them. Served amid this neutral color palette, Kin Thai’s food is even more striking, a study in lush colors and textures. And the flavors are unlike any I’ve experienced at Southern Oregon’s other Thai restaurants.
The black-bordered illustrated menu above the front counter jumps out, juxtaposed with the dining room’s pallor. But the selection mimics the decor in its restraint. This isn’t yet another Thai establishment touting countless curries and stir-fry assortments with choices of meat, poultry, seafood or tofu.
Each of Kin Thai’s dishes is a singular preparation of chicken, duck or pork under the headings “salads,” “noodles,” “curries” and “rice dishes,” priced from $8 to $16. Notably absent from the array is pad Thai. And curiously prominent are barbecue pork, shumai dumplings and Hainanese chicken, all iconic dishes of China, as well as biryani, a quintessential rice dish of India. Kin Thai’s message is clear: There’s something for everyone here.
The salads are particularly appealing as the weather warms. I’ve typically skipped over the “larb” section of other Thai menus locally, doubting I’d enjoy chopped meat as a “salad.” Kin Thai, however, offers several items in addition to summer rolls and green papaya salad that pile plenty of savor and substance onto lettuce leaves. And each is impeccably dressed in tangy, spicy, slightly funky sauces that I was hard-pressed not to sip right off the plate.
For actual sipping, I ordered the chicken hot and sour soup ($14), a consolation because the kitchen was out of duck for rice and noodle dishes. Although duck costs a dollar or two more compared with chicken counterparts on Kin Thai’s menu, it seems more accessible, rather than the luxury other restaurants make it out to be. Indeed, duck’s popularity challenges Kin Thai to keep enough on hand.
Craving a deeper umami than I expected chicken to deliver, I requested the spicy mushroom larb ($10), prepared with straw mushrooms, slivers of red onion and enough fresh cilantro leaves to constitute salad greens. The melange could be scooped up and munched on the three accompanying romaine leaves. But I simply dug in with my fork, relishing the mushrooms dense, earthy chew, overlaid with toasted rice powder and elevated with the inimitable note of kaffir lime. Because I had the plate to myself, I homed in on the mushrooms and ate sparingly of the onion and cilantro.
More cilantro spiked my soup, awash in so much chicken that I couldn’t even see the rice vermicelli underneath. Fresh spinach leaves and broccoli florets bulked up the bowl in vibrant contrast to the otherwise monochromatic chicken and noodles.
A closer inspection revealed not only sliced chicken breast but chicken meatballs steeping in the broth, whose sweetness was supported by a subtle heat that built with each bite. I adored the meatballs’ springy, spongy texture and only wished they outweighed the sliced chicken. So much protein confirmed the soup as a good value, easily enough to feed two people.
I knew two dishes would be just right for sharing when my partner joined me a week later at Kin Thai. This time duck was available, and we agreed to the noodle dish ($15). Eager to try another salad, I persuaded him toward tofu ($10) with spinach, tomatoes, cashews and the indispensable cilantro.
Sticky rice with mango caught my eye while browsing Kin Thai’s Instagram posts several weeks prior, but the fruit was too sour to feature that week, according to the server. Strategizing a sweet stand-in for dessert, I instead asked for a taro smoothie ($5), for which the server voiced his approval. Smoothies also come in coconut, banana, pineapple, strawberry, raspberry, green apple, orange, peach and matcha green tea flavors.
I explained taro’s popularity in the Pacific Islands to my partner, who marveled at the smoothie’s deep lavender hue, but pronounced it tasty. We sipped some before dinner arrived but had plenty left to chase the meal.
The duck noodles afforded both breast and leg — bone in, skin on — chopped into manageable chunks. Broccoli and spinach combined to cut through the duck’s richness. My only quibble with the dish is how the noodles stuck together at the bottom of the bowl, somewhat impeding my enjoyment of their texture, as well as efforts to portion the dish between two plates.
Faultlessly prepared, the salad married creamy tofu — just crisped on the outside edges — crunchy cashews and red onion with tender spinach. My partner raved about the dressing, as I’d hoped he would. The only improvement, perhaps, could come with slightly sweeter tomatoes in season.
Seasonal adjustments expand customers’ interest in Kin Thai’s menu. I’ve spied banh mi, beef satay, crispy pork belly with rice, crispy tofu with tamarind sauce and “chicken crispy rice salad” on Kin Thai’s social media accounts, in addition to the more frequently touted meal deal of roast chicken, sticky rice and green papaya salad for $12.
Located at 207 W. Eighth St., Kin Thai is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 541-690-1709.
A new chef is a key player in the reopening of Ashland’s Alchemy Restaurant and Bar.
Michael Bryant relocated from Los Angeles to head Alchemy’s kitchen at The Winchester Inn. Staffing such notable establishments as Cliff’s Edge, Bin 8945 and Joe’s, Bryant also has appeared on television cooking competitions and reality shows, including “Chopped,” “Knife Fight” and “Chef Wanted With Anne Burrell.”
Specializing in modern American cuisine, Bryant composed for Alchemy a menu of steaks, lamb, duck and seafood dishes with local ingredients and global spice palettes. A native of rural Virginia, Bryant grew up appreciating the seasonality of quality ingredients, prepared by his mother, an immigrant from France. His family is eager for a slower-paced lifestyle in Ashland, says Alchemy owner Drew Gibbs.
Alchemy has set April 9 as its reopening date for indoor seating in both the bar and dining room, beginning at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, Thursday through Monday. Located at 35 S. Second St., Alchemy has been shuttered since the“freeze” on restaurant operations statewide was imposed in November to curb the coronavirus’ spread.
Make reservations at alchemyashland.com or call 541-488-1115.
A menu of panini, deli sandwiches, salads and appetizers for pairing with wine is new at Dunbar Farms in Medford.
The farm’s own flour, milled from its organically grown grains, is used in its sandwich bread, baked by Rise Up! in the Applegate. Other farm-grown ingredients are featured, along with goods from local growers and purveyors, including Wandering Roots Farm, TerraSol Organics, Angel Farms, By George Farm and Rogue Creamery. Menu items are priced from $8 to $16.
The tasting room for Rocky Knoll wines is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, until 6 p.m. Sunday. Free live music will kick off April 30, with special concerts Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer for ticket holders. See the calendar at dunbarfarms.com/events-calendar
A farm-to-table eatery in Grants Pass has closed.
VINFARM shut its doors Saturday after less than three years at 111 S.E. G St. The sister establishment and tasting room of Wooldridge Creek Winery in the Applegate, VINFARM had a hyper-local approach to wine-country cuisine with cheeses and charcuterie handcrafted first at the vineyard estate, then at the downtown kitchen.
VINFARM expanded its food service from meat and cheese boards to full lunch and dinner menus with special, multicourse meals by advance reservation. Offering retail sales of meats, cheeses and housemade accompaniments, as well as takeout over the past year, owners Kara Olmo and Greg Paneitz scaled back to producing just wine and cheese, said former general manager Gabrielle Hahn.
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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole. dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.