Our Gourmet: The new Daw Kun: As Thai as it getsOctober 04. 2017 12:33AM
Daw Kun2626 Brown Ave., Manchester; 232-0699; www.dawkunthai.com
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Pricing: Apps $5.95-$7.95; Soups/salads/noodle soup entrees $3.50-$18.95; Entrees/Lunch dishes/ $8.95-$19.95.
The scores for Daw Kun
When a new Asian restaurant opens in the Manchester area, one or more of our review teams is on it so quickly we are surprised some of us haven’t been discovered camping out on the sidewalk like diehards do for concert and baseball tickets.
So we were very surprised to learn that more than four months had elapsed before Our Gourmet came-a-calling to Daw Kun.
After a couple of visits, we’re convinced that the cuisine here is as Thai-authentic as it can possibly be in America.
A spanking new establishment, Daw Kun gleams from every corner of its large but austere dining room. Booths and tables, a small counter for checkouts and takeout service and a central door to the kitchen create a functional atmosphere. Much wall space is blank, with a few paintings here and there, and there were zero condiments, decorations, candles or other accoutrements at the tables during our two visits.
Located in an end space of the last Brown Avenue strip mall before it continues to the airport, the proprietors at Daw Kun obviously put a lot of effort in transforming the former retail space into a comfortable, if spartan, restaurant. The bistro is about five months established, and the restrooms remain so clean that most patrons probably spend extra time in there making sure the spotlessness of it all is not compromised by their visit.
At the table, no condiments are needed. The spices and flavors of the food are there to begin with and need no enhancements. Cloth napkins and sturdy silverware are provided, and alcohol and delivery service are soon to come, according to the website.
The menu is loaded with appetizers, soups, salads, noodle-soup meals, curry dishes, rice dishes and Daw Kun Specialty Plates. All are moderately priced, except the lunch specials which run $11-$14 with rice. On takeout orders, there’s an extra charge for spicy or sweet sauces beyond what comes with the meal, as there is for a second helping of rice ($1.75) to round out the fairly small standard serving.
But the flavor of Daw Kun’s food stands on its own.
Tom Yum Soup, a traditional Thai soup with a dynamic spice and deep, rich flavor, was one of the best we’ve ever tasted. With shrimp ($4.50), this bowl was steaming hot, with carrots, onions, scallions, lemon grass, lime juice and cilantro in a hot-and-sour style, with a half dozen floating shrimp. A very spicy, steamy soup that would be perfect for those nasal-congested winter months, it was perfect even in late summer.
Spicy Chicken Wings ($7.50) is an appetizer that can make for a meal with the soup. Six very deeply fried chicken wings, unadorned on the plate save for a basil leaf, are rubbed or marinated in a slightly spicy sauce. Very simple, but hot and crunchy and filling. (Diners must be careful not to inadvertently crunch the small wing bones lurking beneath that crunchy coating.) If the wings are not spicy enough, Daw Kun offers eat-in patrons a nice rack of three chili sauces that liven things up — a chili paste, dried chili flakes, or Chinese-style hot chili.
On our pair of visits to eat in the restaurant, we used the chili racks for some extra oomph here and there, but none was needed with Pad Tom Yum yellow-noodle dish ($9.95), which is stir-fried in Tom Yum sauce and carries a subtle but almost wicked spiciness. In its makeup, it’s a fairly standard Asian stir-fried plate with bean sprouts, scallions and shrimp, but the yellow noodles cooked with the TY sauce carries the full Thai flavor and spicy punch. Delicious.
Another appetizer on our list was Tod Mun Pla ($7.95), four curried fish cakes (also available as shrimp cakes, same price) with a healthy dose of Kang (curry) in the ground filling and a tasty breading that fried nicely — and a delightfully light and sweet, cool cucumber sauce with floating chopped onions. This was a sauce we could put on everything, but we moderated our urges to enjoy the full flavor of the fish cakes. It is a very tasty appetizer, and could be a meal for one with a bowl of soup.
Perhaps the best of the bunch that we sampled was the Kang Dang Chicken ($12.95), one of nine curry dishes built around beef, chicken or pork. All of them combine different curries with different vegetables, some spicy, some sweet, and others with coconut milk or pineapple.
Our Kang Dang used coconut milk, red curry, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and a hefty amount of crisp, fresh-sliced green beans, swimming in a deep hot sauce of sharp red curry, accompanied by steamed jasmine rice. What this dish may have lacked in spice was more than made up in the freshness of all the vegetables and what must have been a half pound or more of thin-sliced, moist white chicken meat. It proved to be a bountiful meal, and was served with a cup of the house soup, a delicate chicken broth seasoned with scallions and basil and a hint of lemon grass.
With nine curry dishes on the menu — and we being curry lovers — we have a few visits to go to sample more. There is a yellow curry Kang Luang chicken offering with pineapple, onions, bell peppers and coconut milk ($12.95), and an intriguing masaman curry dish with potatoes, something not often found in non-Indian Asian eateries. That pineapple yellow-curry dinner is on our list.
Daw Kun has made a nice entry into the local restaurant scene, with very authentic Thai flavor and great care in preparation.
We love Thai and other Asian food, and both times we left Daw Kun we had a good feeling that this is one local bistro that will remain in place for years to come.