There are plenty of things that we’ll readily cry over—like the first ten minutes of the movie Up, or spilt milk, probably, if it were a common occurrence—but none, perhaps, as much as those first few fiery bites of papaya salad at Thai Kun. We like that they don’t hold back on the spice. Maybe it makes us stronger, or maybe that’s just something we tell ourselves as we’re wiping back tears and going in for a second bite. It’s a philosophy that goes into their whole menu—don’t hold back. And they definitely don’t. Whether that’s with a fiery Thai chili-infused margarita or a pork larb coated in a funky, spicy fish sauce dressing. Somewhat unexpectedly, all this phenomenal Thai food is found at the Domain, Austin’s fancy outdoor shopping center.
Sure, you’ll find classics on the menu like a sweet and sticky pad thai, or an excellent crab fried rice that’s almost more crab than rice, but those are just accessories to the more adventurous stars of the show. The slow roasted short rib panang curry is almost as rich and savory as it is spicy, and rotating specials like a large format ribeye—served with a spicy, fish sauc-y nam jim jaew—will have you throwing out any bottles of A1 left in your fridge. And even simple-sounding dishes, like a perfectly-cooked roasted chicken, get pumped up with a side of boom sauce—a sweet, spicy, and salty house sauce found across the menu.
The patio can get loud at times, with the sounds of numbers and names being called out from nearby fast casual restaurants. But the indoor dining space—decorated in art by Peelander Yellow—is a welcome retreat from the shopping mall vibes outside, though a quick glance out the window at a giant Nike sign is a quick reminder of where exactly you are. But if you need a reason to make a trek to the Domain (other than for a quick visit to the Apple store), Thai Kun’s menu of classic street food staples and bold flavors should be all the excuse you need.
A fairly classic take on papaya salad that doesn’t hold back on the heat. Unless you’ve run the Hot Ones gauntlet multiple times, prepare to sweat a little. Fortunately, nobody will be peppering you with questions here.
These will convert even the most casual enjoyer of chives into a chive enthusiast (the herb, not the site). The greens get mixed with batter and steamed, before being fried to order. The end result is crispy on the outside, with soft, steamed chives inside, all doused in a spicy, salty nam jim.
One of our favorite dishes to order for the table. Ground pork in a spicy, tangy mix of flavors with some toasted rice powder for texture (and toasty notes). Eat it with some cabbage or eat it with a spoon—whatever you do, just get it.
As could probably be inferred from the name, this is a roasted chicken (half) but it’s some of the most tender, flavorful chicken we’ve had. And as tasty as it is on its own, it’s made even better with the two bowls of accompanying dip—a spicy nam jim jaew, and a less spicy, sweet and sticky “boom sauce” that’d we’d gladly eat on just about anything.
This comes out in a sizzling clay pot that serves to crisp up the rice at the bottom of the dish. It’s topped with coconut milk, tofu, and taro crisps that, together, make this dish a wonderful balance of textures with a rich, creamy coating.