There’s a new restaurant that’s just opened on the Rocklands Avenue block and they’ve got their pink light turned on. Kiss Kiss, the latest venture by the team behind L’Oeuf and Chinoiserie shares her sisters’ winning formula that takes their spin on Asian food (this time from the land of smiles) and mingles it with cultural appropriation kitsch.
Last Friday night every hipster (and myself) seemed to have flocked to Kiss Kiss, which lies just off the main strip of Dominion Road in Balmoral. She stands out from the rest of the Dominion Road crowd in a number of ways; a concerted effort has gone into recreating the ambience of your last trip to Bangkok, complete with pink-tinted lights and exuberantly floral PVC table cloths; the menu does not read like an Eleanor Catton novel (read: long), and she’s open all day.
Starting from seven in the morning through to three in the afternoon, Kiss Kiss is first and foremost a café, where you’ll find eggs, and muesli, and French toast, but also a number of Thai influenced dishes such as the young coconut black sticky rice with salted coconut cream, and the Burmese style pork belly curried baked beans with a son in law egg.
But in the evenings she dons a completely Thai menu with a small selection of starters and mains to make a meal of or to accompany drinks. If you’re wondering what cocktails Kiss Kiss has to offer, you’ll have to look through one of the View-Masters to find out. Excited much? Both wonderfully novel and nostalgic, the View-Master discs are a rollcall of Muay Thai fighters with various cocktail descriptors alongside. The layman’s half of my brain tittered with delight whilst the doctor-half of my brain recoiled at the thought that these View-Masters would be an ideal vector for conjunctivitis.
The menu begins with starters of a bar snack bent (think Thai style chicken wings and sticky ribs), and continues on into noodle and rice dishes, and sides that include som tam (green papaya salad) and even a whole deep fried snapper with tamarind, garlic and chilli. From the starters Lorenzo and I ordered the pork crackling ($5), as neither of us could say no to crunchy pork skin. As we tucked into these crunchy morsels we both marvelled, admittedly with slight disappointment, at how dry they were. Evidently we were used to the kind of crackling that has remained attached to flesh, which imparts that lovely richness that serves as a reminder that this is bad for you. A good lick of salt was also what was missing from making this moreish bar snack shine.
The fat that should have been attached to the pork crackling was probably rendered down and put into Lorenzo’s Phat Thai Thamadaa ($16) which is the second ingredient listed after rice noodles. A Pad Thai by any other name, this was better than the usual renditions found at most Thai restaurants; Kiss Kiss has been light-handed with the sugar and the noodles not overly greasy. The dish sung with contrast lent particularly by tamarind and has made me rethink my feelings about a dish I previously so hated for being generic.
I ordered the Larb Kua Moo, a dish of spicy home minced pork with aromatic spices and herbs, fried shallots and garlic, served with a side of sticky rice, hold the spicy and the fried shallots as neither seemed to feature in any significant way. It was pleasing to see a generous smattering of aromatic soft herbs such as Thai basil, mint and coriander feature as well as finely sliced lemongrass. After dunking into the container of fresh hot chilli adorning the table, the party really started, however I longed for the fragrance of toasted ground sticky rice ubiquitous to larb that also seemed to be missing. Nonetheless, the dish was an enjoyable one, particularly paired with sticky rice that doesn’t often make an appearance at your average Thai joint.
We passed on desserts that evening, of which one has the option of sticky rice with mango or doughnuts served with pandan custard. Kiss Kiss, with its long communal benches and tropical umbrellas, will be a welcome addition to that end of Dominion Road, which is rather devoid of good cafes and cocktails and could do with a place with that much colour and flare.