There’s no doubt that the last decade in Danish gastronomy has been about the new Nordic cuisine. But alongside this great revolution Copenhagen has had the exclusive honor of being the hometown of the only Thai restaurant with a Michelin star in Europe since David Thompson’s Nahm in London lost its star in 2011.
The name of the restaurant is Kiin Kiin and the founder, Henrik Yde, has shown Danes as well as tourists that Thai food can keep up with the more “fine” cuisines around the world. Throughout the years he has been expanding his portfolio of Asian restaurants in Copenhagen and last year he opened three new restaurants; a restaurant serving the world-wide trendy steamed buns called bao, VeVe, a vegetarian fine dining restaurant and finally SEA by Kiin Kiin, which is supposed to me a more casual place still serving elegantly presented food in comfortable surroundings. The latter is the one I will try to give you a further introduction to right here.
The revival of Nyhavn
Having had the pleasure of dining at Kiin Kiin, I was very excited to see how SEA by Kiin Kiin had turned out. Henrik Yde has a refined sense for interior design and the restaurants always have an exclusive look and feel to them. SEA, which by the way stands for “South East Asian”, is no exception. The interior is based on elegant wooden furniture, which works very well with the rest of the room stabilized by old wooden beams. The restaurant is set in a protected old warehouse in Nyhavn, the old harbour area in Copenhagen famous for its colorful old houses.
While the iconic buildings are attractions well worth seeing, it has been a good decision to stay away from the area’s restaurants and bars known among locals as terrible tourist traps. Until now. During the last couple of years, restaurants focusing on quality ingredients have started to appear and SEA by Kiin Kiin definitely falls into this category.
Some of the dishes are very similar to some of the signatures at Kiin Kiin, and while Kiin Kiin is only serving a set menu, SEA offers you the possibility to go a la carte, which is what I decided to do this time for lunch. During night time I would surely go for the five course set menu for 595 DKK.
The menu consists of a number of snacks and appetizers at 45 to 55 DKK, while the dishes – all around the size of a starter – will set you back 145 DKK each.
Authentic Thai flavors
What I really enjoy at Kiin Kiin is that they stay true to the authentic Thai flavors. The dishes are obviously more refined than those of a street food vendor in Bangkok but the similarity in terms of taste is easy to recognize. That also means that you’ll experience quite pungent spiciness in some of the dishes. That includes the grilled peace of white fish (seabass, if I’m not mistaken) served with cylinders of cucumber and watercress. Table side, the waiter prepared a spicy marinade to finish the dish. It contained fish sauce, coriander, chili and lime and it gave a nice kick to the dish without overpowering the delicate fish.
If I was feeling a bit of heat in the aforementioned dish, things really started to get hot with the next one: Green curry. I’m a big fan og green curry. It is a bomb of complex flavors getting together in one dish. It varies in strength and the chef running the kitchen this day seemed to have his experience from Southern Thailand, where they are usually more tolerant to chili – it was quite hot, I have to say. Luckily, a deliciously sweet beetroot baked in a salt crust softened the kick from the chili even though I have to admit that i struggled with a bit of sweat from my forehead as well as having runny nose while eating this dish. On the other hand – like a Thai boxer – I kept fighting until the last drop of curry was finished because of the incredible taste of the dish. Be aware though, if you are no chili lover.
I finished the lunch with a delicious serving of quail. Different preparations of quail were swimming in a mild, creamy coconut soup; poached breast, a crispy thigh and a crunchy wontons. Every piece was perfectly cooked resulting and juicy meat an pronounced flavors of the bird. Coriander added the proper Thai feeling, whereas pickled pearl onion shells added acidity and sweetness. A fantastic dish that I would like everyone visiting SEA by Kiin Kiin to try.
I could easily have continued my way through the journey but that has to be another time and three dishes showed to be very sufficient for lunch. It also gives me a good reason to return. SEA by Kiin Kiin is definitely serving well-made, delicate Thai food and if you are not in the mood for the full tasting menu at Kiin Kiin, SEA it the perfect alternative. The central location makes it easy to access, so while you are already walking your way through Nyhavn, make sure to give SEA by Kiin Kiin a try.
SEA by Kiin Kiin is a great option for people wanting to experience the modern Thai cooking by Henrik Yde. Make sure to consult the waiter regarding the spice levels of the dishes as it might be too much for unexperienced Thai food eaters. In contrast to many other ambitious restaurants in Copenhagen, SEA by Kiin Kiin is also open for lunch.
SEA by Kiin Kiin
71 Nyhavn Hotel
Phone: +45 5144 5958
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 12 pm to 11 pm