Some restaurants serve spicy food that’s like a punch in the face. It hits hard, then you’re down for the count. At Kru, a Williamsburg spot that specializes in modern takes on century-old Thai recipes, the heat should not be discounted, but it’s not here to knock you out. The food here is nuanced, layered, and delicate. Order correctly, and you can have a transformative meal. Think of it a little like a workout for your palate. You’ll sweat, but you won’t be sore the next day.
At first glance, Kru might seem like a run-of-the-mill “cool” restaurant in Williamsburg. The room is dimly lit, with dark walls and some unobtrusive decorative elements like botanical illustrations and racks of delicate stemware. But this is more than just another trendy Thai spot. The menu is divided into three sections: small plates, relishes, and curries. Everything is designed for sharing, and you won’t find things like pad see ew, fried rice, or other Thai standbys here.
Start with some small bites, then move on to relish plates, which rely heavily on local, seasonal produce paired with a slew of dips. Some are mellow and soothing, like one made from creamed pork jowl mixed with sweet rice and shrimp paste. Others are pungent, just this side of punishing, like a paste of almonds, multiple types of chili, and galangal. Every bite is a contrast of fire immediately quelled by the cool, crisp vegetables.
The signature dish here is the beef tongue curry. When you order it, the server will explain that it’s very hot, the way you might expect the effects of ayahuasca to be outlined before you take that fateful first sip. You’ll bite into bunches of green peppercorn strewn like grapes through the brown gravy that coats meltingly tender strips of beef tongue. Your vision will blur, you’ll sweat it out, then you’ll go back for more.
By the time the bowl is empty, the server will bring you little knobs of coconut sugar to ease the pain. At this point, you should order their take on a peach melba. It’s made with fermented rice ice cream that has a flavor unique among all frozen desserts in the five boroughs.
When you’ve finished your meal and made your way back outside, something silly that was bothering you before — a passive aggressive Slack message, a too-long gap between texts with the person you’re dating — won’t feel so annoying anymore.
Kru translates to “mentor,” and the name is fitting. As far as spiritual experiences in this city go, you could choose an overpriced hot yoga class where the carpet smells like sweaty New Yorkers, or you could go through the literal and metaphorical fire of a meal at Kru. We’ll choose the latter every time.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.
Young Jackfruit Salad
In this refreshing dish, the soft textures of young jackfruit and shredded chicken meld together, making you wonder where the meat starts and the fruit ends. It doesn’t matter. This is a great way to start a meal here.
Cauliflower Crab Meat Salad
Another study in cool, crisp textures, shredded crabmeat and tiny florets of heirloom cauliflower are tossed in a light, gently acidic dressing. Even if you think you don’t enjoy crab salads or cauliflower, you’ll want to try this.
Nam Prik Almond Relish
This is one of the spicier relish plates, but the sweet edge will make it impossible to stop eating. We love it, but recommend pairing it with the lobster curry rather than the beef tongue.
If you want a relish to ease the pain of the beef tongue curry, this is a good option. It’s creamy and rich, with that special depth of flavor that comes from fermented fish.
Beef Tongue Curry
If you’re game for an intense experience, this is the dish to get. The spice builds, subsides, then leaves your lips buzzing, making you come back for more. You get floral notes from the bunches of fresh green peppercorns strewn through the gravy and bites of the tenderest beef this side of the East River.
Pineapple with Whole Lobster Curry
This dish shows off Kru’s more delicate side. You really get a sense of the royal inspiration, right down to the hand-rolled salted egg yolk pearls strewn on top. It’s creamy with a hint of sweetness and tang from the pineapple and a very mellow undercurrent of spice. If you like lobster, you’ll love this.
The fermented rice ice cream that forms the base of this dish is like nothing else we’ve ever tasted. The texture is ultra-rich, but somehow each bite melts away almost instantly. It’s the perfect antidote to counteract the effects of the beef tongue curry.