At Kinkhao, a ‘tavolata’-style Thai restaurant in district 4, husband-and-wife team Christoph and Laor Grasser treat their guests to multi-course Asian menus. Their aim is to introduce them to the wide variety of Thai cuisine.
A doyen of the Zurich restaurant scene, Christoph Grasser ran the Liquid Bar for 14 years. But in the end this native of Zurich decided he was too old for the job and felt it was time to leave the hospitality industry. But then Christoph cooked at the Food Zurich festival in May 2018, where he regularly served up multi-course Thai menus. ‘Everyone loved them,’ he says. ‘A lot of people asked if I also ran a restaurant.’ Encouraged by the positive feedback, Christoph and his wife Laor decided to open their own restaurant and called it Kinkhao, the Thai word for ‘to eat’.
Christoph also likes to serve up less familiar dishes – such as fish cakes.
‘Here, you dine like a king!’ says Christoph. Because they run Kinkhao on the ‘tavolata’ principle, with guests sitting down together to enjoy a communal feast. The evening starts at 6:15 with drinks and canapés, followed by a multi-course dinner featuring a wide range of Thai dishes. They include old favourites like pad thai, chicken cashew and curries, but Christoph also likes to serve up less familiar dishes – such as fish cakes. ‘They’re similar to burgers. Even people who don’t usually like seafood enjoy them,’ he says. Sticky rice and grilled fish are also on the menu at Kinkhao.
Christoph wants his guests to be able to try as many different dishes as possible.
Christoph wants his guests to be able to try as many different dishes as possible. He thinks this makes a restaurant visit more interesting, so he serves up to ten different dishes every evening. He is always happy to cater for special dietary needs such as food intolerances or vegan options. ‘99 percent of our guests like our concept,’ says Christoph. The ‘tavolata’ concept means that drinks are included, a set amount for each guest, and they all sit together at three long tables. ‘Maybe it’s not ideal for a romantic dinner date,’ he says with a laugh. But many of the diners enjoy chatting to each other: ‘When they’ve finished eating, they often go on somewhere together.’
Kinkhao is a two-person operation. Laor is at front of house, looking after the guests, explaining about the dishes and the evening as a whole, and often finds herself talking about her home country. ‘This often leads to some fascinating conversations,’ says Laor, who worked in the marketing departments of international companies for many years. Meanwhile, Christoph is hard at work in the kitchen – he cooks all the food himself. He often gets started in the early afternoon, ‘It means I can leave some of the dishes to simmer for a long time.’ This improves the flavour of certain dishes, such as curries. He buys many of the ingredients at the market. ‘The meat comes from Switzerland,’ says Christoph, ‘and we also try to buy local vegetables.’
Laor and Christoph always buy local handicrafts, which they sell in the restaurant.
But, of course, the rice and spices come from Thailand. The couple don’t visit Thailand so often these days. ‘I want the food at Kinkhao to be perfect. That’s why I don’t entrust it to anyone else,’ says Christoph. But when they do manage to get away, Laor and Christoph always buy local handicrafts, which they sell in the restaurant. ‘We think it’s a good way to support local people in Thailand,’ says Laor. There is a great deal of poverty, especially in rural areas. She recalls her own school days: ‘We didn’t have many books.’ That’s why she and her husband support an educational project, with Kinkhao donating twenty francs for every sack of rice they use. ‘It’s our way of doing something to help,’ says Laor.
She still feels strong ties to her home country, and Christoph has also travelled there regularly over the last thirty years. That’s why, with Kinkhao, they are delighted to be able to bring a little piece of Thai culture to Zurich. Laor says: ‘In Thailand too, people like to sit and enjoy a lavish meal with friends – and strangers.’ That’s precisely what’s on offer at Kinkhao.
Monday to Saturday from 6 pm (drinks and snacks), dinner from 7:30 pm
What’s on offer
On Mondays and Tuesdays there is a 4-course menu for 40 francs (50 francs with wine). On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the 5-course menu costs 50 francs (65 francs with wine) and on Fridays and Saturdays a 6-course menu is offered for 75 francs (95 francs with wine). There is also a daily mini menu (three dishes, no drinks included) for 25 francs.