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Katoi bringing shareable Thai dishes to Corktown

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Easily one of the most-anticipated restaurant debuts of the year so far, Katoi opens March 21 in Corktown.

The Thai restaurant has garnered buzz because while this is Katoi’s first permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant, chef Brad Greenhill’s food has been around both in Corktown and elsewhere. He has served out of a food truck at Two James distillery’s tasting room, hosted pop-up dinners around town and Katoi also had a residency in Ann Arbor at the former Jerusalem Garden for a few months last year.

Next week when the Corktown spot –which Greenhill and his business partner Courtney Henriette enthusiastically call their “mothership” – will debut with a tiny, hip dining area with an open kitchen that will seat 50-60.

Henriette calls the service “kitchen to table,” not just because your plate doesn’t stop anywhere else on the way, but with the open kitchen guests get a full view of busy chefs and the aroma of cooking food.

The centerpiece of the dining area is a long communal mango wood table, and tiny two-person booths and seating for larger groups are set around the perimeter of the room, which also features exposed brick and thoughtful lighting that becomes more dramatic as the night settles in.

Seating is compact, and that’s on purpose, says Henriette.

“We’re promoting sharing,” she says “We want people to have a tight, intimate experience.”

The menu is clear-cut, with item descriptions and notes to let diners know which dishes are spicy or very spicy, and which can be made vegetarian and vegan. Everything that comes out of the exposed kitchen will be shareable.

Starters ($8-$16) include vegetables like smoked carrots served with coconut yogurt, pistachio, perilla leaf and honey and “thrice cooked” sweet potatoes, which are charred out the outside but fluffy and soft inside, served with avocado, palm sugar, sherry and bonito flakes. The chickpea tofu, served with a sweet chili garlic sauce is a great appetizer that’s presented like a fusion of French fries and hummus.

A menu of noodle and curry dishes includes Chinese duck noodles, Burmese pork belly curry and porchetta phat thai. These items run $14-$18. Find grilled hen, crispy spare ribs, and whole red snapper on the menu of larger plates ($13-$32).

The beverage list has nine signature cocktails with blend traditional ingredients like bourbon, gin, and tequila with the unexpected, including Thai tea, jackfruit, mole bitters and coconut milk.

Katoi also serves four red wines, four white and two sparkling. Beer ranges from cheap and easy ($3.50 Miller High Life) to more thoughtful purchases like the 22-ounce bottle of Alpine Brewing’s Handshake IPA for $22.

Greenhill and Henriette’s third partner is Philip Kafka of New York. Last year the three made news when Kafka, who owns Prince Media Co., put billboards around New York City that said “Detroit: Now Hiring. Katoi.” The billboards resulted in at least one person moving from New York to Detroit, but Henirette says the majority of the employees at Katoi are Detroiters.

Starting Monday, Katoi will be open 5 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Wed. and 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Thurs.-Sat. Call (313) 855-2864.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

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