Recently opened in March of this year, Kin and Comfort, in the Hana World Food Court on Parmer Lane in Austin is the new concept from Tim Ekrerk, formerly of Spin Modern Thai. Thai by birth, he is the brother in the Austin powerhouse duo behind Titaya’s. He also has collaborated with Paul Qui on several of his food trucks, so while his name may not be familiar to you, his dishes just might be.
At Kin and Comfort, the food is heavily influenced by the Southern Food movement with strong roots in his Thai heritage. Think traditional Asian ingredients and throw in a bit of Southern flair, and you might just be able to categorize Ekrerk’s cuisine.
We started with the Son-In-Law-Eggs. A classic Thai street food, they consist of a breaded and deep-fried egg white filled with creamy egg yolk seasoned with black pepper and pickles. The dish was finished with shaved fennel and a tart yet sweet tamarind sauce.
Our next foray into Thai-inspired Southern cuisine was a coconut and lime infused Tom Kah shrimp and grits. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and were complemented by salty Virginia ham and enoki mushrooms. By far one of my favorite dishes, it showcased a perfect harmony of East meets West and was finished with a flourish of green onions and cilantro.
Then we tried the coconut cabbage slaw. I was honestly expecting a coleslaw but this was different. The subtly sweet coconut base was mixed with cabbage, house-pickled beets, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts. The contrast in flavors and cooking methods was a nice surprise to the palate.
After that, it was the home fried chicken. The chicken was marinated in a soy sauce base prior to being breaded and deep-fried. The chicken was much more flavorful than typical fried chicken. Accompanied by fried green tomatoes and a spicy papaya salad, it was a whole new take on fried chicken.
Out of all of the dishes, the Southern fried rice balls were the most unique. Black rice was breaded and deep-fried, then covered with sausage gravy. Finished with smoky shaved bonito and green onion, it was definitely a dish that had varied reactions. I found the bonito only smoky and not overly fishy. While it wasn’t my favorite dish, it had a unique quality that I would consider a signature for the chef.
The last dish to come out was the potato and taro hushpuppies. It was good timing too, since they were a little on the sweet side with the addition of umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum) sauce and crushed peanuts. Sweet and slightly fruity, they were the perfect way to end the meal.
Overall, I really liked the variations in the menu. I was also impressed with the presentation of the food as many food court restaurants like to serve their dishes in plastic or Styrofoam food containers. Here the focus is on sitting down and enjoying a good Southern……I mean Thai…..meal.