One of my favourite openings of the year was without a doubt Kin Dee, the Thai restaurant under the direction of head chef Dalad Kambhu and restaurant manager Moritz Estermann that took over the space of renown Edd’s in the spring. From the start, Dalad made a point of focussing on the strengths of her home country’s cooking: fresh, high quality ingredients and intense herb & spice mixes. That’s why she rather uses local produce like kohlrabi or radishes than imported veggies, and makes all her pastes in house. And much to my delight, she also included plenty vegetarian dishes from the beginning. By now, nine months after opening their doors, there’s a full on vegetarian menu with many new dishes, that I can very much recommend. And for all you non-veggie friends out there: the meat and fish options are seriously delicious as well, my fellow eaters usually drool over the confit octopus with Kaprao sauce, some of them saying it’s the best they’ve ever eaten.
When it comes to Thai food in Berlin, it’s not as easy as I would like to get vegetarian options. One of my fav places on Kantstraße, Papaya, unfortunately has very little veggie options on the menu, so I tend to eat the same curry every time I’m there (it’s really good, though. And all their meat is sustainably sourced from Neuland butchers). Kin Dee’s veggie dishes are much more creative than anything I’ve seen in Berlin, Dalad’s food is so joyful thanks to its many herbs and spices, the complexity of flavours, and obviously the presentation on that gorgeous ceramics. I especially love that one green sauce made of loads of cilantro, chilli, and lime, which is, yes, spicy, but also fruity and sweet and much more. I eat it straight from the bowl, just to experience that flavour rollercoaster again and again.
There’s one thing parting ways with vegetarian Thai food though: the fish sauce. Asking Dalad to do a menu without fish sauce is possible if done a couple days in advance, however, it’s not her favourite thing to do. I think it’d be an interesting challenge for her to develop her own dishes without fish sauce, but it’s really not my place to judge. When I asked her about her approach to vegetarian cooking, she said: “At Kin Dee, we’re making Thai food like what we eat in our home country. There are so many dishes without meat in Thailand, as a matter of fact, no dinner would be complete without a sautéed vegetable dish. But most of these are seasoned with fish sauce or oyster sauce, it’s part of our cuisine. Using a seafood seasoning is a solid element and we’re very proud of it. I personally think Thai food is not very meat-heavy, and it’s always about being in harmony with nature. Herbs, spices, and vegetables are the main components and part of our culture and heritage, which I try to carry on. When I make vegetarian food at Kin Dee, I always check prior whether the guests are okay with the Thai ways of seasoning. Most of the time even vegans are willing to try once I explain that it’s a part of our culture, which I’m trying to preserve. But if someone let’s us know ahead of time, we can easily prepare a menu without it.”
If the disclaimer is still necessary, here it is: I tolerate fish sauce seasoning at Thai places. So here’re my fav dishes: definitely the glass noodle salad with pickled radishes, the tang yang pad kai, the eggplants with grilled eggplant powder (that come with such a great sauce), the green curry with squash, zucchini and eggplant is also delicious, as well as the mushroom and cabbage Gang Orm. Dalad says, it’s one of Thailand’s most famous soups that’s not nearly as known outside of the country. The key ingredient for her is the dill. But seriously, don’t miss out on the green cilantro sauce, it comes with fish dishes, but I’d just be bold enough to ask for an extra serving.
Kin Dee is a menu, not an á la carte restaurant, and the price of the menu is 45 Euro, all dishes are served to share and come with red and white rice.
Transparency note: I’ve had the vegetarian menu twice in the last weeks, to one of them, I was invited by Kin Dee. I started the other with a Thai Gin Tonic, and I’d highly recommend you do the same.