It’s a great time to be an Austinite…especially if you’re into food. World class restaurants, nationally recognized food trucks, burgeoning farmers markets…and now noteworthy grocery store food court restaurants?? Make no mistake. Kin & Comfort’s menu may be filled with whimsical fusion pairings of Thai cuisine and Southern comfort food, but there’s nothing lighthearted about the flavors coming out of this unassuming kitchen.
If it weren’t for the fact that MJ and I do most of our Asian grocery shopping here, we may have never experienced this little gem of a restaurant. Actually, I take that back. The brainchild of chefs Ek Timrerk and Bonnie Wright (both East Side King veterans), Kin & Comfort is quickly gaining quite the following here in Austin. One spoonful of the Tom Kah Shrimp & Grits and it’s no wonder that they continue to make it onto various “Best of Austin” lists. Ours included :).
I think MJ was a little hurt by my barbs regarding her ordering difficulties in my last restaurant review, so she left the entire burden on my shoulders this time around. I stood there dumbfounded, wanting to try everything but knowing that wasn’t an option. After much deliberation, I made my picks (see above picture) – 1. Tom Kah Shrimp & Grits (with Virginia country ham) 2. Ginger Coconut Hushpuppies (with fennel umeboshi sauce) 3. Panang Mac & Cheese 4. Krapao Pork Belly Buns
Figuring out which dish to begin with was almost as difficult as ordering! Everything came out piping hot and the aromas were literally intoxicating. The hushpuppies couldn’t have been fried better – perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. With just a hint of floral from the ginger, the fritters were exquisite on their own but were accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce that enhanced the flavors even further.
My favorite of the entire meal (so it gets 2 close ups!) – the pork belly buns. First off, I LOVE these buns! They’re a little soft, a little chewy and just the perfect vessel for meat. The pork belly slices were so thick that one piece per bun would have sufficed, but no complaints were uttered from my lips at the inclusion of two. With precise cross-hatch grill marks, the pork was tender, moist, savory, sweet, and just flat out delicious. Dressed with caramelized onions, Asian pear slices, Thai basil and cilantro, these buns were a true treat.
And coming in at a close second, the shrimp and grits were absolutely tremendous. At the risk of sounding cliche, it was an explosion of flavor in each bite. The soup was velvety, bright and distinctly Thai. Who knew it would partner so well with the hearty grits?
There’s definitely no comfort missing from their Panang mac & cheese. Warm, rich, and with just a bit of spice, this dish hit the spot on the cold, rainy day we visited. Although the union was not quite as seamless for me as in the other dishes, the spicy curried beef worked with the familiar shells and cheese. They even snuck in some kale on me ;).
What can I say? The entire meal was nothing short of stellar. We couldn’t leave without expressing our gratitude to the chefs who were gracious enough to spare a few minutes to chat with us and even pose for a picture. They talked a little bit about the limitations of working out of a food court and the appreciation they have for all their supporters. It’s clear that these two love being in the kitchen, and I can’t wait to see where their creativity and talent lead them.
Kin & Comfort
1700 W Parmer Ln, Austin TX 78727 (inside Hana World Market)
With the food scene being so exciting in Austin right now, I’ve created a list of the newer restaurants that I have to try, a bucket list if you will. Kin & Comfort was the first in this new series. Over the next couple of months MJ and I are committed to checking out these establishments and sharing our experiences. It’s gonna be fun so stay tuned!! Here they are in no particular order…
2) Foxhole Culinary Tavern
4) Sawyer and Co.
6) Dai Due
7) St. Philip
8) Dang Banh Mi
9) Noble Sandwich Co.
10) The Peached Tortilla