Spin Modern thai

4005 N. U.S. Hwy. 183, Suite 1000
Austin, TX 78717
Phone: (512) 258-1365
Website: spinmodernthai.com
Hours: Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner: Sun.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.

Austin’s Asian fusion scene has received abundant, well-deserved accolades.  But, when you think of inspired, beautifully crafted and plated Asian fusion, chances are, you are not thinking of a strip-mall location far north on Hwy. 183.  Well, I am telling you now, it’s time to recalibrate your mind set, because there is a new kid on the block that is offering up some beautiful, exotic, complex tastes that belie its unassuming location.

SPIN Modern Thai Cuisine is a bustling spot near Lakeline Mall on Hwy. 183.  Despite the suburban locale, the restaurant offers a very downtown feel, but with remarkably reasonable prices.  The dishes at SPIN are creative, unexpected, and made for sharing.  But be forewarned… you won’t find your run-of-the-mill Pad Thai at SPIN.  Instead, expect striking tastes, uncommon flavor combinations, and dishes that would have much larger price tags at many other spots around town.

The best way to  experience SPIN is with an adventurous group, letting everybody pick dishes to share family style.  The menu at SPIN regularly changes, and the kitchen regularly whips up daily specials based on availability and season.

First up, we sampled the Gai Tot Nuggets.  These crunchy, tangy bites married fried chicken with a spicy salted soy and ginger vinaigrette.  The nuggets were finished off with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro.  This dish was tender yet crispy, and the perfect mix of sour and sweetness.  We ended up ordering a second order because we polished them off so quickly.

We also tried the Baby Octopus Yaang.  This dish featured chargrilled baby octopus, which managed to be surprisingly tender.  The chewiness of the octopus was offset by crunch, julienned green apples and sliced cipollini onions and shallots.  The plate offered a zest of freshness from baby spinach, mint, and fresh cilantro.  A tangy tamarind sauce finished things off with a touch of heat.

Next up, we sampled the Panang Curry Fettuccine.  This dish was dramatic, hearty, and delicious.  Of all of the dishes we sampled, it was easily the spiciest.  Despite being designated as only 1 pepper on SPIN’s heat scale (suggesting it was on the milder side of their spicy dishes), some in our group were surprised by the punch of the heat in this dish.  If you like spicy dishes, however, this dish will hit the spot.  The Panang Curry features a coconut-milk based curry over buttered pasta with tender cubes of stewed sirloin.  The heat from the dish comes from serrano peppers.  The dish is completed with fresh Thai basil.  I absolutely loved this dish.

The star of our dinner at SPIN, though, was the Pad Cha Soft Shell Crab.  First, the presentation of this dish is beautiful.  The colors are vivid, the textures are unexpected, and the plating simply feels adventurous and exotic.  This dish takes fried soft shell crab, and kicks up the fire with Thai chili, basil, and very potent green peppercorns generously draping the dish.  The tangy sauce and fresh cilantro finish the dish.  The Pad Cha dish was unusual, complex, beautiful, and very tasty.  We have ordered it every time we have gone back since our first trip.

Make sure you leave room for dessert on your trip to SPIN.  Depending on your order, your mouth might welcome a bit of cool by the end of the meal.  On our visit, SPIN’s menu included two dessert options, both of which provided a nice, refreshing palate finisher after the melange of flavors during the savory portion of the meal.

First up, we sampled the fried ice cream.  SPIN’s version features ice cream surrounded by pound cake and tempura batter that is deep fried.  Crush peanut toffee and toasted marshmallows topped off this dessert.

Even more delicious was the Coconut Panna Cotta.  This dessert provided the perfect cooling and refreshing end to our spicy SPIN meal with cooling coconut milk panna cotta, a soothing ginger consomme gel, and mint.  Preserved lemon provided a zip of tartness, and candied pecans offered a salty crunch.  A caramel tuile offered a crispy finishing touch.

SPIN is the kind of place you want to visit again and again because the food is exciting, unexpected, and truly delicious.  Despite its location, SPIN easily feels like one of the more groundbreaking, experimental kitchens in the city, and offers up food with price tags that are a fraction of what the plating, creativity, and tastes suggest.  It’s worth a drive up Hwy. 183 to check out this inventive, tasty spot.

Sauteed chicken breasts with fennel

We get biweekly vegetable delivery from Farmhouse Delivery.  In a recent delivery, we received fresh fennel, so I tracked down a recipe I had previously tried.  The recipe I used was from Food & Wine via Cooking.com .  The description below is the recipe with the modifications I used:

Ingredients
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. fennel bulb (chopped into ½ inch slices)
2 tsp. dried thyme (Note: recipe calls for rosemary, but I used thyme.  Either is delicious).
½ tsp. salt
½ c. chicken broth
1 1/3 lg. chicken breasts (approx. 4-5 breasts)
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 cloves garlic (approx. 1 tsp.)

Heat 1 Tbsp. of  olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped fennel and 1 tsp. of thyme and ¼ tsp. of salt.  Cook the fennel, stirring frequently until the fennel is golden brown (approx. 12 minutes).

Add chicken broth and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the fennel is tender (approx. 3 minutes).  Remove the fennel and cooking liquid from the pan.

Wipe out the pan and heat  remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Season chicken with the remaining ¼ tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. (I used a bit of extra black pepper here, but it’s completely a personal preference).  Add chicken and 1 tsp. of thyme to pan.

Cook chicken until brown.
(I’ve made this recipe twice now, and this is the point where I find the recipe a bit off.  The recipe says browning the chicken will take about 5 minutes, but both times I’ve tried this recipe, I’ve found this step to take 10-12 minutes).

Turn the chicken, and cook until almost done.  (Again, the recipe says this step will take about 3 minutes, but it has taken 7-9 minutes both times I’ve made it).  Add garlic and cook, stirring for approximately 30 seconds.

Add the fennel and liquid, along with 1/8 tsp. pepper.

Bring to a simmer.  Cover pan and remove from heat.  Let steam for 5 minutes.  (I omitted the parsley).

This is what the final result looks like.

I served it with risotto, but it’s also great with mashed potatoes.

Easy tortilla soup

When the weather starts getting even remotely chilly in Austin, I get the urge to put together a cozy pot of soup.  Tortilla soup is one of my favorite Tex-Mex options when the summer starts to give way to lower temperatures.  Although I have some great recipes for totally from-scratch tortilla soup (involving boiling the chicken, making your own broth, and the like), sometimes, work, school, or life in general calls for a quicker option for the evening meal.  After some tweaking and experimenting, I have come up with the following recipe for quick, tasty, after-work tortilla soup that will fool everyone into thinking you have been slaving for hours.

Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional–omit if you prefer less spicy)
1.25 lbs. of chicken breast, cubed
1 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
10 oz. of your favorite salsa
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Grated cheese (as desired)
1 avocado
Crushed tortilla chips (as desired)

Method
Warm olive oil over medium heat in large soup pot or dutch oven. Add garlic and onions. Cook until onions are tender and translucent. Add peppers. Cook 1-2 more minutes.

 

Add cubed chicken breast.

 

Cook until just done on exterior (no pink still visible), or approximately 5 minutes.

Add beans and tomatoes. Add salsa. (TIP: Use the can that held the diced tomatoes for an easy 10 oz. reference). Add broth, water, and all dry seasonings.

 

Add lime juice and 1/4 bunch of cilantro.  Cook over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes. Chicken should easily shred when the soup is ready.

For garnish, sprinkle grated cheese, crushed tortilla chips, remaining fresh cilantro, or chunks of avocado on top of individual bowls.

 

For even less after-work time: Throw all of the above ingredients, other than the garnishes into a Crock Pot or slow cooker on low, and let the soup simmer all day.

To cut a few calories: Use not only reduced-sodium broth, but also reduced-sodium beans, reduced-fat cheese, and baked tortilla chips.