Friday, November 2, 2012

SPIN Modern Thai Cuisine, 11.2.2012

Spin Modern Thai Cuisine
14005 Hwy. 183 N. #1000; 258-1365
Lunch: Tue.-Fri., 11am-2pm, Sat.-Sun., 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner: Tue.-Sat., 5-10pm; Sun., 5-9pm

A couple of buddies and I ventured out to the hinterlands (for me anyway, since I live way south) to try Spin Modern Thai Cuisine. It’s the creative newish venture from Ek Timrerk (East Side King co-founder, with three years at Uchi) and Uchiko veteran Thai Changthong that’s been open 4 months or so. If memory serves, it’s in a Cedar Park shopping complex called Walden Plaza, on the east side of 183, halfway twixt TX 45 and Lakeline Blvd; if going north on 183, you take the last exit before the toll road starts. It’s directly across 183 from Lakeline Mall. The name SPIN comes from their menu of new twists on traditional Thai cuisine, with some pan-Asian thrown in for good measure, and a healthy nod towards fresh, local, and seasonal. Spin also refers to the changing menu. Lunch is more street-food oriented, with cheaper prices and faster service.

The brigade, L to R: Ek Timrerk, Thai Changthong, David Baek

The space is lengthy and slightly narrow, with stained concrete floors, lots of dark wood, accent lighting, and a mix of sea foam green and taupe. Contemporary upbeat music plays at a pleasant elevated level, and a serving bar is placed in front of the gleaming open kitchen. The vibe is hip, unpretentious, comfortable, and welcoming. Portions are bigger than I expected, and for the price, and the quality of the ingredients, you definitely get value. Linda, our server, was efficient, knowledgeable, unobtrusive, and downright pleasant; all you can ask for in a server.

We started with hor mok salmon, done here like an elongated, croquette, topped with a julienned salad with a nice garlicky kick, good chile spice, and a creamy sauce; different from tradition, but delicious.

Next was lin wua ($12), slices of rich, unctuous sous-vide beef tongue nicely seared and crispy on the outside, on a kabocha squash puree elevated with curry paste, with sweet corn, Chinese broccoli leaves, cherry tomatoes, bacon, and a balsamic drizzle; might sound busy, but it all worked together perfectly.

A decidedly zippy som tam salad arrived, with julienned green papaya, green bean, cherry tomatoes, peanuts, and a 5-chile rated dressing made from shrimp paste, lime, and fish sauce. The flavor was very authentic, but I thought it needed just a dab of sugar to balance the lime. Ek brought us out a cylinder filled with crispy fried salmon skin, which was the perfect crunchy accompaniment to the salad. 
In classic Isaan fashion, we ordered it with a half gai yang grilled chicken ($10, that day's special) that arrived with burnished crackling skin and moist flesh, paired with a sweet chile sauce and a funkier, soulful tamarind-chile sauce that we loved (some shrimp paste maybe?); a delectable trio.

Som tam salad

Gai yang chicken

Crispy salmon skin

Pud cha soft shell crab ($15) was next, done tempura style and topped with the sauce: sweet, salty, spicy, with basil and young peppercorn; again, tradition with a twist, and quite tasty.

Belly on fire ($14) was on our radar: melt-in-your-mouth thick slices of pork belly with panko-breaded crispy skin, topped with curry sauce, with fresh julienne green beans, Chinese celery slivers, caramelized cipollini onions, basil, and toasted chili: sinfully rich and well balanced.

Goong op woon sen (“clay pot shrimp”, $16) was the final dish, and it’s one of my overall Thai favorites; easy to do, but seldom seen on menus over here. A sizzling clay pot emerges topped with three large perfectly cooked shrimp, lying on a fried egg, on a bed of glass noodles, seasoned with shitake mushroom, whole peppercorns, bacon, scallion, and a sauce of garlic and ginger, sweet soy, fish sauce, and oyster sauce. I loved it, but thought it was just a tad bit sweet.

So we were sitting there stuffed when the cooking brigade sends out a couple of desserts for us to nibble on. Coconut panna cotta ($6) arrived with salted, caramelized pecans and a caramel tuile. I hate to criticize something brought gratis, but it could have been richer and sweeter. A dish of fried ice cream ($6) was a ball of strawberry ice cream fried in pound cake tempura batter, drizzled with a syrup and topped with caramelized marshmallows; I liked it fine, but it needed a bigger ball of ice cream to balance the fried crust (which is tasty in its own right).

Bottom line? We all loved our meal, and I was frankly surprised that it wasn’t busier than half-full at 7:00 on a Thursday evening. SPIN should have a line out the door all the time. Ek and Thai are doing some really delicious, creative twists on traditional Thai (and the pan-Asian menu items that aren’t Thai). Good stuff, go there!

Mick Vann ©


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