Food Dude let me know about a Thai restaurant a while back that would be opening on Alberta Street. On the heels of his review, I decided tonight would be the perfect night to try them out since my Thai-loving friend would be up to watch the opening of Harry Potter with me.
We started with the pulled pork spring rolls: "braised tender pork, reduced w/ white wine, cinnamon, hazelnuts, and vanilla bean" ($7.50). It's a good portion with six thick halves cut on the bias. Some crudites are strewn around the pieces and a little bowl of sauce sits in the middle. They smelled like doughnuts. I don't know if it was the vanilla or the cinnamon or the drop in the fryer or all of the above, but it was an interesting smell. The sauce was quite sweet offset by a bit of sourness, but it was really too sweet and syrupy even though that went with the smell of the rolls. They were very good and it was a generous portion, but I would say that since they highlight the braised pork on the menu that there should be at least as much meat as vegetables.
My friend ordered the kao soy chicken ($14): "northern styled medium spicy green curry made with hand ground cinnamon, mace and coconut milk". It came on angelhair pasta (rice noodles, I believe) and bean sprouts and was topped with crispy fried noodles and pickled mustard greens. There were large chunks of tender chicken slathered in the thick gravy. The sauce was unlike the typical green curry, tasting more like an Indian curry than what you might normally associate with the more herbaceous, fresh chile green curries. It also had an almost meaty flavor to complement the earthy spices. They brought out extra wedges of lime. Because the dish was lacking brightness these limes made a world of difference. Quite good and made entirely from scratch pounded in a mortar with pestle, according to the chef (who visited each table).
I ordered the massaman ($14): "a slightly spicy curry with roasted peanuts, herbs, chiles, potatoes, and onions finished in a rich coconut base." Very tasty. Normally I expect a massaman to have the earthiness that my friend's green curry had showing its Muslim influences. But instead, this one's dominant flavor was sour, I'd say, or perhaps sweet, with a foundation of peanutty coconut cream. Again, large chunks of tender chicken swam in the gravy, which was a bit thinner than the green curry (but no less intensely flavored). The potatoes were cooked perfectly. I couldn't get enough of it. When I had gotten down to the last piles of sauce one of the waiters asked if I wanted a spoon and I eagerly said yes. I scooped up every bit I could. If I hadn't been wearing a nice sweater, I may have forced my face into the bowl to lick up the streaks. My friend thought it was a little too sweet and preferred his own. I liked my order better.
We didn't save room for dessert, but got some anyway. There's always room for ice cream. As another friend says, it can melt into the crevices between the other foods. My friend got the coconut island: "homemade coconut ice cream served atop steaming sweet coconut sticky rice" ($6). The sticky rice was a mix of black and white rice, giving it a purple hue. (It looked like thick, slightly rice textured poi.) The flavor was decent, but neither intense enough or sweet enough for either of our palates. The coconut ice cream wasn't intense enough either, tasting more of milk than coconut. The texture was excellent, however. Very smooth and creamy.
We both preferred my ice cream, the cardamon ($5), also made in-house. The texture was even better, if possible. More creamy, but just as smooth. It was served at a nice temperature, too, just before melting. It was very fragrant and flavorful, better than any kulfi I've had. Fantastic, I'd say. Maybe they'll sell me a quart?
It's a huge space and it wasn't even half full at 8 pm. As Food Dude said in his review, I think I might go here first when N. Korea decides Portland is a juicy target. The huge concrete walls make you believe you could survive Armageddon. And even if I couldn't, at least I'd have a tasty last meal.
Service was extremely attentive. Part of that may have been that they caught me taking pictures of the food, but it seemed like they were very attentive with their other guests, too. It wasn't busy at all. They seemed honestly interested in what we had to say about the dishes and I was unusually honest with them about some.
This was a much better first meal for upscale ethnic than my recent trip to Vindalho. I will be back soon.
Pictures to come when I return from Harry Potter.