I’ve now watched nine seasons of Top Chef, but I still remember Harold. Think back: season one, that cute pencil behind his ear at all times, and that genuine demeanor that made him the fan favorite of the season. Harold won the inaugural season of Top Chef without any tricks up his sleeve– just solid cooking that never failed and then won him the title. After winning Top Chef, Harold Dieterle opened Perilla, a cute little restaurant in the west village that boasts some of the classic gourmet dishes that characterized his top chef competition (duck meatballs with quail eggs!). I went to Perilla a few years ago with my sister, and even mustered the courage to go back to the kitchen and meet Harold himself. It was an honor, and his shy disposition was still present even after winning the competition and opening a well respected west village establishment.
Harold’s second restaurant, Kin Shop, opened in 2010 and marks an expansion of Dieterle’s creative side. Kin Shop, kin meaning “to eat” in Thai, is a modern American-Thai fusion restaurant down on 12th st and 6th ave. I’d been looking for the right opportunity to go, which luckily converged with Ali’s visit to New York this weekend. She was immediately on board. Kin Shop AMAZINGLY promotes a $20 three course lunch prix fixe. Even without Harold’s allure, Kin Shop’s impressive menu, or its recent ranking on NYMag’s top 101 restaurant list, twenty bucks for three courses is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I started with garam masala butternut squash soup, Ali chose the brussel sprout apple pumpkin seed salad. We both chose right. My soup was spicy and creamy, with perfect little chunks of tofu at the bottom and sprinkled basil leaves on top. Ali’s salad was crunchy and fresh, a totally American combination of ingredients but with a surprisingly Thai feel.
I bet we would have been happy with just our starters. But with the bright and airy ambiance of the restaurant, we wanted to stay forever. Next came our entree, for which Ali and I both chose the coconut noodles. This was a Thai noodle dish on an entirely higher level. Whole edamame beans, pickled shallots, and, of course, Harold’s classic duck egg, made this an upgraded version of any Thai meal I’ve ever ordered. And the most amazing part about the dish was its paradoxical ability to be an entirely new, modern, gourmet Thai experience, while still channeling the true essence of Thai street food I remember from Bangkok or Chang Mai. Harold combined authentic Thai flavors and textures with a real American gourmet sensibility. It was amazing.
At this point we were totally full, but happy to indulge in our allotted final course. We finished strong with lychee sorbet and galangal ice cream. A nice peaceful way to close the meal….
our hearts started pounding with excitement! There he was! Harold!!! Coming out from the back kitchen, pencil behind his ear as always. Here is our best stalker attempt to capture his essence through an iphone:
I wonder what he’s thinking about. A new restaurant idea, maybe? A future trip to Bangkok? I can’t wait to see what he does next…