I made my third trip to Oolang on Commercial Street in Portland. It calls itself out as a restaurant that you WANT to like, with the wonderful design, attention to detail, and attempt at original cuisine.
The bar is fantastic, and the cocktails I have had there are done well - the staff is well trained, the layout of the bar and the view of a bustling Commercial Street is a new take on cocktailing in the Old Port District. But face it, these days when the cocktail of choice is some sort of vodka martini, and they are working with Grey Goose how far can you go in complimenting the cocktails?
The biggest issue - and it is a big one - is that the Southeast Asian Fusion menu is utterly devoid of familiar, inviting choices. And I am an adventurous eater. On my first trip I had the hot & sour soup which was served in an interesting double tureen. It was a smokey, flavorful rendition - original, but not so good that I ordered it on two subsequent visits. I also got the Crab/Corn rangoons. Crisp, tasty and very good. For dessert I ordered the ginger creme brulee, and it was also very good. My second trip - with a friend eager to try the place - we sat down, ordered cocktails and the crab rangoon...and neither my normally enthusiastic dining parter or I could see anything on the entree list that appealled to us - and we both LOVE Thai food, Vietnamese food, etc. So we enjoyed the cocktails, rangoons, paid the bill and headed off to Street & Co.
Tonight I ventured back - suffered the same menu lament, still amazed at how patently unappealing the menu offerings were (seared tuna with Asian pear - who knew?)and settled on the black pepper shrimp with roasted peppers and shallots. They were delicious, though I went with only one cocktail as the bartnder never made her way around to see if my glass needed refilling.
In short, I'd say that Oolang is a great place to meet up for drinks - just be aware that that if you are dining with a group that the menu is a bit...challanging...and if you find yourself flipping the menu page expecting to find the Pad Thai on the next page, you'll be suprised to find the aperitif offerings...
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