Harold Dieterle's new Thai-inspired West Village restaurant Kin Shop is something of an instant hit. Longtime fans of the chef's food have been lining up since its opening in October, but Sam Sifton's recent, stellar review has brought in new crowds from all over the city. Thankfully, partner (and soon-to-be-mom) Alicia Nosenzo is in charge of the door. Over the past decade, she's worked the front of the house at many of NYC's great restaurants, including Perilla, her first project with Dieterle, just a few blocks away.
It's 8PM on a Saturday Night, what's the wait for a table? We save the bar and the counter for walk-ins, but they've been really popular. So, it still could be an hour and a half, just for the bar. The wait for an actual table may be longer.
Is there anything I can do to make the wait shorter? No, not really.
How about cash or gifts to speed things along? You know, that's not our style. We're very democratic. Even when we've had some super VIPs call at the last minute, I've had to tell them that we can't do it. But being nice always helps.
Tell us about your favorite customers? John and Victoria. They live around the corner and they've been here at least once or twice a week since we opened. They know a lot of people in the neighborhood, they're super nice, they always make friends when they come here and they bring us gifts and things. They like to sit at the bar and talk to Harold and the manager and bartenders. They already know that Andy our bartender is in a band, and Victoria actually went to go see him play. It's great — they're a part of the family.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left to give? I say, "Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry! Please call me next time." If people call ahead, we'll do our best. But actually, a lot of VIPs are coming in to eat at the bar. They love it, and they also get to talk to Harold. It's really comfortable, our bartenders are great — it's definitely a hot spot.
What's the most outrageous request from a customer that you could accommodate? We haven't gotten too many requests that are crazy, but it always surprises me when people ask us to make something spicier. The duck is the spiciest thing on our menu — we had to put four asterisks next to it — but people still ask for more. And one you couldn't accommodate? We had a party of 15 come in one night and asked for a table, and we couldn't do that. We're just not that big.
Have a lot of people come in because of the NYT review? Yes. The review came out on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday every table that we sat in the first seating ordered the squid ink soup that was mentioned in the opening paragraph of the review. It's a fantastic dish, but it's not for everybody, and had not been one of our top sellers. A lot of people read that review. Were you relieved when the review came out? Yes. The anxiety of waiting for your reviews to come out is so awful. Harold couldn't sleep.
Did you know when the critics were in the house? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. With the internet now, it's hard for them to stay anonymous. Earlier this week Ryan Sutton came in by himself and we had no idea who he was. We were all celebrating the Times review, drinking champagne, and we thought that we should probably offer him a glass. But I didn't, because he seemed sort of solitary, and focused so I didn't want to disturb him. But then we saw that picture on Eater, and we were like "Oh, my god, that was Ryan Sutton!" It's hard for them to stay anonymous now, and a lot of them don't even try — they take notes at the table, they have their Blackberries out.
What's your ideal meal at Kin Shop? I would start with the pork and oysters, or the pumpkin salad. My favorite dish — I'm pregnant right now — is the egg noodles with mushrooms, it's so warm and comforting, and the mushroom broth is so earthy. I love the chicken noodles, and I love the duck.
And when you're not at Kin Shop, where are you eating? Lately I haven't been eating out at all, but I love sitting at the bar at Babbo. I've been going there for years, and always go when Ken the bartender's there. I also love Soto, but that's for special occasions.