Nick | Jan 8, 200410:03 PM    

5810 NE Sandy Blvd

Thanks to Rodney, I made an effort to get up Sandy after dropping my wife at work today and try this place. Glad they were open.

Surprisingly it's decently nice inside. It's on that strip of Sandy with all the Asian restaurants, actually on the same block as Sam Ho. I expected it to be a little more low-end Thai decor like a Bangkok Kitchen or something like that. But it was pleasant with comfortable chairs, decent tables, and attractive-enough walls.

Their main menu is pretty standard, but their monthly specials menu had piqued my interest immediately with the first item: miang kum. Here's the description:

You might have tried this classic Thai dish at other Thai restaurants, but at Cha' Ba Thai it's different -- you build it to your own desired flavor. Fresh diced ginger, shallots, toasted coconut, lime peanuts, Thai chili, and dried shrimp with Cha' Ba Thai Miang Kum Sauce on Piper Sarmentosum (wild betel) leaves. Lots of healthy herbs and a medley of flavors.

Unfortunately they were out of betel leaves because of the snow keeping the delivery truck away, but they made it with baby spinach leaves which worked well enough. Nice to see it on a menu and it was tasty. $8.50.

I also got the basic green curry with beef. It was quite tasty with a fresher flavor than most places. I asked afterwards if they make their own paste and apparently they do. Makes a difference, especially in green curry in my experience, because of the fresh chiles that are used and all the herbs. Another striking thing about their green curry was the beef. I'm sure anyone with Asian food experience knows the disappointing texture of most meats in curries and such. All too often it's overcooked, rubbery, and dry. This wasn't at all. In fact, it was probably cooked perfectly, tender, and flavorful. Makes a big difference, imo. $7.50. (One things: the portion size did seem a little smaller than some places, but it's hard for me to tell nowadays because I'm eating curries like soups without the rice and it didn't come in a bowl, but on a plate next to the rice.)

I'm eager to go try my other stand-by dish: larb. I have a goal to try the green curry, larb, green papaya salad at as many places as possible. I'm eager to get back here, although some of the other specials may call my name (so if anyone's looking for a lunch companion....):

Po Pia Sod: This is a typical Chinese and Thai style fresh roll which is hard to find among Portland Thai restaurants. Filled with tofu, Po Pia Sod Shrimp, Chinese Sausage, bean sprouts, eggs, cucumbers, carrots, and shredded green onion. Topped with a light sauce and fresh Dungeness crab meat. $8.50.

Stir Fried Green Curry Beef: This authentic Thai dish is rarely found among Thai Restaurants. We stir fry well selected tender beef with green curry, coconut milk, bell pepper, eggplant, bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, and rhizome root (a type of herb) [galangal maybe?]. $10.50.

Chunk Beef in Yellow Curry: Soft and tender sirloin chuck beef with yellow curry, served with potatoes, carrots, onion, herbs, and spices. $10.50.

Red Sea Perch with Spicy Sweet and Sour Sauce (Chef Highly Recommends): Deep fried whole red sea perch served on a bed of crispy Chinese broccoli leaves and topped with Cha Ba Thai spicy sweet and sour sauce (dine in only). $13.50.

Moon Stuff: Thai pan omelette stuffed with ground chicken and shrimp, dived onions, tomatoes, carrots, snow peas, and green beans. Served with cumber [cucumber?] sauce. $10.50.

They have a lot of seafood options, too, and one of the more extensive salad menus for a Thai place in Portland.

After one visit, I am fairly confident in saying they're a winner. I eagerly look forward to more visits so I can more accurately place them among other Portland Thai restaurants.

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