With its airy terrace and two stories of industrial pipes, untreated wood and ferns, this sister restaurant of Snapper (Sukhumvit Soi 11) fits right in with its swanky neighbors on Sathorn Soi 12. Unlike the Scandinavian-style Rocket Coffeebar across the road, though, the New Zealandindebted Kai doesn’t quite do justice to the cuisine of its homeland—namely fish and chips, seafood, burgers and red meat.
The Kiwi Salad (B290) is a far from auspicious start: massive mounds of tasteless iceberg lettuce, a sliced hardboiled egg, and a scattering of tomatoes, topped with a sour dressing. We get that it’s a bloated gardenvariety side salad, but we wouldn’t rock up to a family barbecue with this under our arm.
Things do get better, starting with the fantastic burgers. Piled high with beetroot, fried egg and bacon, the NZ Beef Burger (B400) is brimming with flavor and, on our last visit, the chunky, fist shaped patty was cooked a very nice medium-rare. We like the weighty brioche bun, but the sweet relish perhaps keeps us from calling it one of the very best burgers around. Similarly satisfying are the fresh and juicy greenlipped NZ mussels, even if the sharp, acidic marinade isn’t suited to session eating.
Our real issue is with the fish and chips (B490-590), a dish Snapper made its name for. The chips—thick-cut, golden morsels—are delicious, as are the house-made tartar and garlic aioli (we could leave the overlysweet ketchup), but the fish, to borrow some Southern vernacular, just isn’t much chop. On our last visit, the recommended John Dory (B590) came as two mismatched fillets so dry they put a dampener on the whole meal. On the plus side, they weren’t oily and, well, the chips came in proper, Western-sized portions.
While prices are not astronomical, they are a tad high (though at B2,590, the 1.2kg Australian prime rib sounds like pretty decent value). The drinks list is strong and not like many in town; skip the generic cocktails in favor of New Zealand chardonnays and sauvignon blancs (starting at B250 by the glass), and Kiwi craft beers from Tuatara (starting at B220). There’s also a full page of the menu devoted to iced coffee and a few rare desserts, too, like the super-sweet NZ classic pavlova (B220), a soft-centered meringue topped with kiwi fruit.
Kai’s mission statement alludes to foraging and rare New Zealand produce, but ultimately this is pretty pedestian comfort food.