Sherman's Food Adventures: Kin Kao (Commerical Drive)

Kin Kao (Commerical Drive)

Seeing how Kin Kao Song has been selected in the Bib Gourmand category for both good quality and value, we decided to check out the original Kin Kao as well.  We thoroughly enjoyed Kin Kao Song when it first opened and had high hopes for the original location on Commercial Drive.  The place isn't really all that big and they do not take reservations.  Best to arrive at opening or later in the evening.  That we did and luckily avoided the dinner rush on a Friday night.

We were able to secure a larger table by promising to order a lot of food and that we did starting with the large order of the Chicken Wings marinated in fish sauce and tossed in cilantro, garlic, vinegar, black pepper and lime juice.  As you can imagine, the combination of ingredients created impactful South Asian flavours.  There was sweet, briny, salty, tangy and aromatics.  The skin was properly rendered, but the wings themselves were a touch dry.  We much prefer the split wings at Kin Kao Song.

On the topic of Chicken Skin, we got an order of that as well.  Okay, to be completely honest, I am okay with fried chicken skin on wings and fried chicken, but it has never been that appealing to me by itself.  If not properly rendered, it can be flabby.  Moreover, without meat attached to it, each bite gets a bit monotonous.  So I had a love-hate relationship with this version as some were completely rendered and some were flabby.  Yet, the side of fish sauce dip really helped make this better.

So this bowl of Tom Yum Goong was $22.00.  Now you might be wondering why is this fairly small bowl of soup this pricey?  Well, I would say this was more ingredients than actual soup.  We could barely get 2 small share bowls of liquid.  This was due to the considerable amount of large plump prawns and oyster mushrooms.  Now as for the broth, it was tangy and spicy with the usual hits of galangal, lemongrass, birds-eye chili, fish sauce and lime juice.

For our mains, we got quite a few of them including the Northeastern Style Steak featuring thinly sliced skirt steak tossed with shallots, mint leaves, cilantro, green lettuce, toasted ground rice, soy sauce, dry chili, lime juice and fish sauce.  Now with all of those impactful ingredients, the steak was super flavourful with spice, acidity, rich saltiness and of course aromatics.  However, the steak itself was sinewy and chewy.  To be fair, the pieces that didn't have the sinew was actually good.

My favourite dish of the night was the Panaeng Chicken Curry.  I found the curry to be creamy with the aroma of coconut milk.  However, it was balanced with a combination of spice, sweetness and brininess from the fish sauce.  Unlike many other versions, this was only curry and chicken, no other fillers.  Although the thin slices of white meat weren't exactly juicy, they were not dry either.  I could drink this curry.

Of course we had to get the veritable Pad Thai in vegetarian form with fried tofu.  This was just as good as the one we've had at Kin Kao Song where the noodles were chewy with a great mouth feel.  There was just enough sauce to keep things from clumpling, yet also supplying a sweet tanginess.  This was balanced by an appealing amount of spice.  Loved the big chunks of fried tofu as they were airy and light with a crispy chew on the outside.

To get our full fill of noodles we added the Pad See Ew for good measure.  I found this to be a good version of the dish.  It featured mung bean noodle sheets, which I much prefer over the use of flat rice noodles.  This gave a better chew and the noodles stayed intact.  I enjoyed the long strips of gai lan as they had a nice crunch and since they were thin, it was not hard to eat.  In terms of seasoning, it could've been more aggressive, yet the caramelization was decent.

Our last item was the Vegetable Stir Fry and believe it or not, it was one of my favourites!  Excellent wok caramelization where not much moisture was on the plate.  The oyster sauce really added depth and muted saltiness.  Loved the texture of the veggies and also the fried tofu.  Overall, this was a pleasant meal at Kin Kao on Commericial Drive, but we much prefer the now Michelin Bib Gourmand Kin Kao Song on Broadway.  Still a good meal though and worth checking out.

The Good:
- Impactful flavours
- Proper wok hei (high wok heat)
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Not a bad per se, but Kin Kao Song is better in my opinion
- Parking is a little tricky in the area


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