Crab Cream Croquettes

Update 9/30/14: We’re sad to report that Kuu has closed down, but still encourage you to torture yourself over what could have been by reading about this sadly departed favorite.

The around-the-clock buffet of  Thai street food isn’t the only thing that makes Bangkok one of the world’s great food cities — it’s the sum of parts, rather, one that also includes everything from a growing number of trendy, hyper-expatty Thai-fusion restaurants (honestly, not my favorite class) to one of the more respectable suite of city-wide chains you’ll find just about anywhere.

Kuu, a Japanese-style bistro with multiple locations, is one of them.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way: as BK Magazine succinctly noted in this review (ignore the pop-up; the restaurant is still open) the service at Kuu is, to put it mildly, on the somnabulant side. It’s not mean or unfriendly or unwelcoming, just… ambivalent, about as focused as a jet-lagged insomniac. I’ve been eating here off and on for almost four years, and having visited twice in the past few months I can unfortunately say that it continues to somehow roll even further downhill.

But, well, whatever — the key here is that despite the “service,” I’ve still been compelled to return again and again.

While BK Magazine nailed the service evaulation, they whiffed on the food, or at least ordered the wrong things. My wife has a mild addiction to the grilled bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, decadent pork tonkatsu, and seared squid filled with gooey white cheese (sounds weird, I know, but it works). Meanwhile, my orders usually include some combination of grilled Japanese sweet peppers or okra — both smoky and well complemented by bonito flakes — skewered and grilled teriyaki salmon, Japanese curry rice, or shoyu ramen; I’ve also daydreamed about Kuu’s yakisoba omelette before.

Order all of the above without hesitation, as long as you save room for Kuu’s rich crab cream croquettes. Anything coated in the restaurant’s flaky, near-perfect tempura batter is recommended, but it’s best tasted on these plump, flash-fried croquettes. Gingerly pick one up with your chopsticks, dip it in the side of thick teriyaki sauce — just a little dip — rub a smidgen of mustard on top of the teriyaki, and take a bite. Though you might notice a trickle of oil in the photo above, you won’t get any excess grease: just the crunch of Kuu’s delicate tempura deliciously contrasting with the satisfying creaminess of the filling. The crab is an overpowered afterthought, but I doubt you’ll care. These are flawless.

As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with dining at a chain restaurant in Bangkok (unless you’re an asshole foodie, in which case you should strictly split your diet between street food and expensive expat haunts). Din Tai Fung may be the best of the bunch, but the crab cream croquettes are one of the plates that help put Kuu near the top of the list, too — just keep your service expectations low. Very low.

Kuu has multiple locations around Bangkok; I frequent the branch on the seventh floor of CentralWorld.

More from the BKK Must Eats Series:

+ Early Evening Pad Thai on Soi Chidlom
+ Salmon Agemusubui at Sukishi
+ Spicy Tuna Roll at Yaki Ten
+ Grilled Squid at Pantip Plaza
+ Pumpkin Hummus at May Kaidee’s
+ Seared Tuna at Pla Dib
+ Mexican Food at La Monita
+ Salmon Mania Roll at Zen Cucina
+ Feasts at Jae On

The “Must-Eat Food in Bangkok” game is one without end, kind of like Monopoly. This ongoing series is not comprehensive, nor does it exclusively list foods I feel are “the best” of anything (though occasionally it might). The modest goal here is to simply, randomly, spotlight damned delicious dishes in Bangkok that I’ve indulged on many occasions, and that you should consider indulging on your next visit too.

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Brian Spencer

Brian Spencer is a Singapore-based freelance writer. He has written for BBC Travel, CNN Travel, DestinAsian, Fodor's Travel, Lonely Planet, and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, among other publications.