Modern Kiwi cuisine brings a taste of New Zealand to Bangkok
Kai has developed quite a nifty niche for itself. As owner Craig McLean intones, there are zero restaurants outside New Zealand featuring mostly ingredients sourced from the islands, other than his. This is because a single eatery doesn’t buy enough volume to interest a supplier, unless you’ve spent a lifetime in the food supply chain building relationships as McLean has.
The reason you should care is the quality of the ingredients on your plate. Though Kai doesn’t claim to be 100 percent sustainable, it puts more effort and money than most into sourcing quality. Some 90 percent of its seafood is from New Zealand, and when it does use Thai seafood it is often from local boats in Ranong where the restaurant’s network of suppliers have probed the supply chain rather than farmed output. In short, the owner doesn’t put anything on the menu he wouldn’t be proud to eat himself.
The concept of Kai (the Maori word for “food”) encompasses four themes: New Zealand; wild-catch seafood; free-range meats; and homemade. As such, the restaurant does all its smoking—including seafood, bacon, and ham—on manuka wood from New Zealand, ages its own meats, makes its own ice cream using New Zealand cream, and bakes its own bread.
The block and tackle décor indicates the prominence of seafood, and indeed the best dish of the night was Drunken tuna (B340), featuring strips of sashimi-grade yellow fin tasting light and clean after a marinade of dark rum and sesame oil, among others. A new twist on an old favourite is the Ceviche (B350) concocted by the sous chef, using watermelon in place of citrus on red gurnard from New Zealand, together with avocado, red onion, and tomatoes.
A recent addition to the menu is the triple-cooked, spiced NZ beef short rib (B890). Braised, then smoked, then slow-roasted, the tender fat balanced the earthy meat. Pumpkin is quite popular amongst the Kiwis, so Kai’s risotto (B460) uses pumpkin purée alongside mushrooms, spinach, and parmesan for some hearty comfort food.
Finally, the Toffee cheesecake (B220) comes with bits of hokey pokey placed on top, a honeycomb toffee biscuit that is a favourite nibble of New Zealanders.
The focus on NZ extends to the bar, which uses over 20 suppliers to offer the best from that country. Kai has four beers on tap including Tuatara Midnight Rye IPA (B380 per 400ml), a lovely combination of malt and coffee tones without being overly bitter. Meanwhile an extensive wine list—mostly from NZ—is available offering 10 wines by the glass. The Yealands Estate Land Made Pinot Gris (B370 per glass) was dry and crisp, while the Riesling from the same vineyard in Marlborough (B370) was floral and paired well with the fish.
By Robin Banks
142/22-23, Sathorn Soi 12 | Tel: 02 635 3800
Open: Mon-Fri, 11am-midnight, Sat-Sun, 8:30am-midnight