We live in an age of new buns. You may have noticed the evolution: What once was bread is now ramen buns, fried chicken buns, lipstick-red buns, no-bun buns (lettuce), buns the color of Darth Vader’s helmet, man buns, doughnut buns, fried mac-and-cheese buns, buns with cheese on top of them and, of course, grilled cheese sandwich buns. It is the dawn of the new-bun age. I’m proposing we bun full entrées. Sour cream enchiladas as buns, or buns made of supernaturally tiny, lattice-worked hot dogs. Do not be afraid of this new age; there is a place for you and me.
Inside Kin Kin Urban Thai, which just recently popped up in Oak Lawn, everything is striking — bold, geometric graphics, tiles backlit with a transfixing glow, and a bar fluted with crisp columns of wood, like a detailed bar graph. Tables are made of polished wood as smooth as shuffleboard. Somewhere in there, quietly waiting for you on the menu, is a burger with sticky rice as buns. Your thoughts may mimic mine before the age of the bun: What new magick is this?
It is a burger patty, two of them in fact, born of Angus beef, sauced with a “garlic cilantro soy glaze,” and pattied with two medallions of sticky rice. It’s $14.95, weird and beautiful.
It’s a weeknight, and I grab a table near a window. The first thing I notice is that garlic soy glaze. The intoxicating smell of it comes swimming up from the burger. I'm pretty sure my eyes go dead black like a shark who has sniffed blood. Anyway, the burger comes and it’s neatly arranged: Manicured, pickled onions rest next to perfectly controlled pickle columns and a small cilantro shower. That umami-doused sauce has made delicious rivulets into the sticky rice bun.
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Let’s not mince words: This thing is weird. It’s also dense — those compacted sticky rice patties with the double burger make it feel like a handheld white dwarf. But it is all addictive. The soy glaze running into the bun keeps me diving in for big bites, and there are much, much weirder things than rice buns. They hold together with precision, but require a two-hand pick up.
The two burgers are overcooked, bordering on dry without the sauce. I’d recommend ditching the lettuce and tomato, which is placed on the side like a roommate who's offering you a box of his old baseball trophies during a move-out (“You want these?”). Just keep with the pickled onion, cilantro and soy glaze and you’ll be happy. They deliver continuous punches of flavor.
Overall, do not be afraid. The Kin Kin burger is a weirdly beautiful innovation, and we should be optimistic about what's next. Right?