Address: 1 Rocklands Ave, Balmoral
Phone: (09) 600 3076
Online: kisskisseatery on Facebook

Working flexible hours, mostly from home, the Professor and I think gridlock is something that happens to other people. So we were shocked when, trying to get to the no-bookings Kiss Kiss by 6pm on a Saturday to snag a table, we got caught in the kind of chaos you see on television when the Latin American host nation wins the Fifa World Cup.

At one point we considered ordering our food to go and asking whether they could deliver it to our car. Plans for a 8pm show looked foolhardy.

We need not have worried. Kiss Kiss, which specialises in northern Thai food, is a cut above the laminated-menu decor-free Asian joints with condensation on the windows that take up much of the neighbourhood, but it shares with them the idea that food should be cooked and delivered to the table as fast as possible without actually running.

Kiss Kiss, the latest enterprise of the team behind Chinoiserie and L'Oeuf, is tucked down a side street off Dominion Rd in that bit near Balmoral Rd that some idiots proposed dubbing Chinatown. (Mercifully, the idea was abandoned, largely because the Chinese objected to being told who they were).


It's a large room of communal tables, each big enough for eight at least, covered with gaudily floral plastic tablecloths. Strategically placed potted palms, bamboo sun umbrellas and wall murals convey the sense of a Chiang Mai night market even when it's perishingly cold (though it makes the sight of diners in scarves and beanies faintly surreal).

The service was mostly snappy the night we were there, the waitresses personable and charming, though my repeated suggestions that side plates would make it easier to share dishes seemed to strike them as ground-breaking.

But who cares when the food is this good? The Isaan sausage called sai oua is more fragrant than spicy, but a dish of the chunky, relish-like nam prik num livens things up.
The larb - spicy pork mince - was marvellous, zinging with lime and fish sauce, though if there was any roasted rice in there, I couldn't taste it. By contrast the pad thai - Thai food's equivalent of butter chicken - was sweetly inoffensive, though a menacing pile of dried chilli was available in the corner of the plate.

I can't really fault the deep-fried whole snapper for being dry because I had the same complaint at Saan in Ponsonby (where it was slightly worse).

But you should most certainly leave room for dessert here: doughnuts the size of a toddler's forearm come with a lurid green pandan custard which, its alarming appearance notwithstanding, is absolutely delicious and the sticky rice and mango is a cracker.
Kiss Kiss is one of the coolest joints in town right now, though one wouldn't want to overemphasise its cheapness - the prices at the much more upmarket Saan are comparable, although the servings are smaller.

Cheap and cheerful options abound in the neighbourhood, though Kiss Kiss offers something a little extra.

Starters $5; dishes $16- $21.50; sweets $10
Verdict: Snappy and cool Thai eats in a pan-Asian part of town.