The first sip of the place's signature cocktail "Somchai" (named after bad boy Somchai "Tao" Khemklad) and its matchingly "punching" taste was all it took to put me into a forgiving mood after having to walk quite a distance under the sweltering sun before I finally found Kitche Cafe & Bar.
From the stairs of BTS Mo Chit station where vendors sell dirty-looking barbecued squid and unbelievably red sausages on sticks, across Chatuchak Park with its avid joggers who make fat asses feel rather guilty, to the grand entrance of the recently opened JJ Green shopping park, to behold the homely sight of Kitche.
While other venues in JJ Green are more or less empty or in the preparation stage, Kitche has the spirit of newly weds who have just moved in and can't wait to get started on their new life (the walls are still empty; posters and pictures lie on the floor waiting to be hung).
With less than 10 tables, a semi-open cooking area behind the counter, and cosy furniture both new and old, the only thing that makes you feel like you're not at home is the presence of waiters and the (inevitable) arrival of the bill at the end.
As I watched the owner moving (and sometimes running) about, talking and recommending special dishes to customers, taking orders, consulting with the cook, and even clearing the tables herself, all this with her mum helping out, I began to understand exactly why Kitche boasts itself as offering "the comfort of your mother's kitchen".
After gulping down the last of my Somchai (B130; prices subject to tax and service charge) with its refreshing Sangsom, triple sec and grenadine combination, my first dish arrived. Soft-shell crab salad in mustard dressing (B150, B200 for large bowl) is a good starter. The crispiness of the crustaceans and fresh iceberg lettuce and onions are linked together nicely by the homemade mustard dressing.
What makes NZ mussels in sauteed tomato sauce (B180) different is the slices of roti it's served with. While taking the juicy mussels out of their shells with a fork in my left hand, I grabbed a slice of crisp-outside, soft-inside roti with my right hand. Not caring whether other people were watching, I stuffed them both into my mouth at the same time, with the tomato sauce marrying everything together. Since Miss Roti is usually served with Mr Green Curry, I'm pretty sure she could also have an affair with Mr Mussels to make a pretty good couple.
Fettucine with grilled chicken in pesto sauce (B170) is done pretty well. While I liked the crispiness of the fried chicken that looks like it could be in a KFC ad and the al dente pasta, what I particularly enjoyed is the pesto sauce.
If Kitche were a person who has been conveying her western influence through the previous dishes, her Thai fluency is shown through the spicy Southern Thai dry pork curry (Kua Kling) fried rice (B80). How spicy? Enough to make a veteran spicy food-eater like myself a bit teary. This dish provides colourful diversity from the seemingly western-inclined restaurant.
New Zealand mussels in sauteed tomato sauce
My happy ending was Brown sugar banana rolls (B70, B130 with ice cream). Banana is wrapped in fried roti and covered in brown sugar, with whipped cream on the side. If I had to explain why I had a difficult time putting on my jeans the following day, I would say it's because of this. Get through the sweet crisp roti first, and then your tongue will arrive at a layer of brown sugar before you finally get into the banana whose slight sourness makes for a good ending.
While Kitche might have become just another one of those well-decorated-with-fancy-food restaurants had it been opened in Ekamai or Thong Lor, setting up in Chatuchak best known for cheap stuff and street food is a refreshing change of scene and a challenge. But like a person who is both radical and conservative, Kitche is bringing something new to the area at reasonable prices, with a balance of fancy western and authentic Thai dishes. While I think it's a perfect quiet night-out for a couple or a small group of friends, big families can enjoy plenty of outdoor dining space and there are many simple dish choices that children won't throw a fuss about.
I stand firm to Kitche's saying about its comfort levels as the only query over a visit there is what your surrogate mum has made for you that day.G
Kitche Cafe & Bar Thai/Western
Tue-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri & Sun 11am-10pm, Sat 11am-11pm JJ Green, Kamphaeng Phet3Road, Chatuchak 085-484-9033 facebook.com/kitchecafe
About the author
Writer: Kaona Pongpipat