Last Updated on June 3, 2020 by Angie
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Kiin Lao and Thai Eatery in Squirrel Hill is Pittsburgh's first Laotian restaurant, having recently been transformed by the owners from a purely Thai restaurant into one serving both Lao and Thai dishes. Whether you're looking for some classic Thai dishes or are wanting to expand your palate and try Laotian food, odds are you'll find something that strikes your fancy on the diverse menu at Kiin which includes starters, salads, and entrees.
Kiin Lao and Thai Eatery used to be Bangkok Balcony, a beloved Squirrel Hill restaurant that we enjoyed over the years and used to be our go-to Thai place when we lived in the neighborhood. So when we heard the Bangkok Balcony owners were transforming the restaurant into a Lao and Thai eatery we knew we had to check it out.
Going for the Lao Dishes at Kiin Lao & Thai Eatery
There are separate Lao and Thai menus at Kiin so you can clearly see which dishes hail from which country, which we appreciate. The Thai menu includes classics like tom yum soup, curries, fried rice, and pad see ew. Since we imagine a lot of the dishes are similar to those from the Bangkok Balcony days, we stuck with the Lao menu on this visit.
On the Lao side, starters include curry puffs, fried tofu, and chicken wings as well as siin lod (a beef jerky dish) and sai oua (pork sausage). There are several salad dishes on the menu, mostly variations on shredded green papaya salads with different veggies and sauces.
Entrees encompass traditional Lao dishes like pun mieng (DIY lettuce wraps), orm (a fragrant herbal stew), mok (meat steamed in banana leaves), and several noodle dishes like kua mee (stir fried noodles with veggies and meat).
We started off our takeout order with sai oua, a pork sausage. The sausage was just slightly spicy and full of aromatics like lemongrass, dill, and ginger. It was delicious on its own, but a spicy pineapple-soybean hot sauce on the side really put this dish over the top.
For salads we ordered the thum mak houng, a shredded green papaya salad with padaek (Lao fish sauce), shrimp paste, Thai chili, tomato, Thai eggplant, lime, and garlic. The salad was served with lettuce leaves and sticky rice which we used to make little mini wraps. This dish had a nice combination of sweet and sour flavors with lots of fresh, crunchy textures. It was also fiery spicy – we ordered it a 6 out of 10.
The pork laab was ground pork cooked with fish sauce, toasted rice powder, lemongrass, scallions, cilantro, mint, and lime. It was served similarly to the thum mak houng with lettuce leaves and sticky rice. The herbs in this dish really stood out in a good way and complemented the sourness and saltiness. Although we also ordered this dish at a spice level of 6 out of 10, it didn't seem as spicy as the thum mak houng (perhaps the fattiness of the pork tempered the spice a bit).
We also tried the khao poon, a red coconut curry dish with rice noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, cilantro, and shrimp. Compared with Thai curry, this Lao curry was not as rich or sweet and instead was more sour, salty, and pungent. The only thing that slightly disappointed us about this dish was that there were only three or four shrimp. Otherwise it had some intriguing flavors that we really enjoyed (although we have to admit, we still have a soft spot for Thai curries).
Overall, we loved the fresh flavors and copious use of herbs in all of the dishes at Kiin. As we are just getting started with discovering Lao food, we would definitely return as there are many more dishes we have yet to try- and maybe we could sneak a few Thai dishes into our order as well.
Kiin Lao & Thai Eatery is located at 5846 Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
For more restaurants in Squirrel Hill, click the previous link to check out our neighborhood guide!