Every neighbourhood has spaces that are just crying out for the right restaurant. Places that have had a history of good tries or also rans. When you live close to one of these rooms, it becomes a local topic of discussion, as everyone shares their ideas for what they hope the next venture will bring.
Which meant that when the paper went up over the windows of a failed sandwich shop near Venables and Commercial, there was a lot of speculation. And when signs followed, announcing a Thai restaurant would occupy the space, locals started to get excited. As the restaurant started to take shape, the care taken with the physical design suggested equally considered food and the neighbourhood started to get impatient.
In February, Kin Kao opened and justified that impatience. They experimented with their menu for the first few weeks. We were a bit apprehensive to go during this period, as my partner has celiac disease and is also vegan, which can be hard to work around. But, they were able to modify some dishes for him beautifully and now there are permanent selections on their menu that are great for vegans and gluten-free folks.
We’ve been back more times than I care to admit, for lunch, dinner, and takeout and we’ve tried a number of dishes across their menus. Omnivore that I am, the red curry with duck is my favourite, but I’ve been happy with every dish I’ve tried. For Kevin, the green curry with tofu has become his go to dish, with the vegetarian Phat Thai running a close second. They’ve also got a very well chosen drinks list, with the beers from local brewers 33 Acres and Strange Fellows making particularly good accompaniments to their meals.
I have to warn you, though, Kin Kao is not a Drive North secret – people from all around the city are lining up nightly to enjoy the space. It’s worth the wait, but if you live close by, don’t overlook their take out menu. Their food is just as enjoyable at home. And lunch is a particular pleasure, starting out with soup and moving on to satisfying one plate meals. It’s also not quite as hectic, so it makes a good start to a day on the Drive.
Kin Kao is just the right addition to the north side of the Drive. I think it will boost the business for the lesser known gems around Kin Kao, while acting as an anchor to attract more interesting businesses. It’s also another feather in the cap of our neighbourhood, which is attracting excellent iterations of specific cuisines, like the perfect Neopolitan fare at Via Tevere.
On a more selfish note, we’ve wanted a restaurant of this calibre on this side of the Drive for some time now. And it does Thai food better than most places in the city. They’re going to keep seeing a lot of us.