Boda, fini, pom's taste of thai, Thai-o-rama, veranda thai

Thai-O-Rama: Leftovers

Just when you thought you were out, we pulled you back in. After spending nine months reviewing every Thai place that popped up around town, though I admittedly only made about half of them, there is a need to sum it all up. To give us closure and speak of this no more.

I wanted to follow the outline of a ‘Best of,’ but when I kept answering the questions there was only one restaurant that I felt was the best in any category you could designate.

BODA

The one exception to this is that I did eat one dish at every restaurant that offered it–which was every single one BUT Boda. I said in the review of Veranda that their Drunken Noodle with Chicken was my gold standard. I expected a challenger or two of this but found none of the other five restaurants compared, though Pom’s got pretty close. So, Veranda remains my favorite and worth the trip around Baxter Boulevard to reach it.

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Thai-o-Rama pt. 6–Boda

When we were polled by A., organizer of the ongoing Thai restaurant adventures and gate keeper to Portland Food Map, as to where the next restaurant should be there was one clear winner: Boda. I was one of two that voted for another choice but, really…why fight it? Since I published my review in March, the Missus and I have been there a few more times and still have yet to have a bad experience. So, as it happened to be, last week we also celebrated our birthdays–my partner and I share the same date..creepy, I know–and a friend invited us out to celebrate and indulge in some peanut laden Thai food while his allergic girlfriend was out of town for the weekend. Again, why fight it?

Because this was our friends first trip to Boda we ordered a variety of dishes:

Miang Kum Som-oh ( 4 bite-sizes of pummelo fruit salad on betel leaves with toasted coconut, peanut, lime, ginger, shrimp, and shallots in a flavorful palm sugar dressing)

Taro Fries

Jalapeno Pork–Think ‘popper’ with ground pork instead of cheese.

A couple of grilled shrimp and chicken skewers and then our entrees:

Beef panaeng: Braised beef in a flavorful panaeng curry paste (salty and sweet with aromas of Thai basil and lime leaves with a background taste of peanuts) and coconut cream, served with jasmine steamed rice. Panaeng curry is one of the most popular dishes in the Thai repertoire.

Fried Rice with Crab: Stir-fried jasmine rice with Jonah crab claws, Maine crab meat, onion, green onion, garlic, egg, fish sauce, and Thai bird chili. Fried rice made its debut on the streets of Thailand about 80 years ago. In Thailand, fried rice always comes with a few slices of cucumber as well as a few wedges of lime to squeeze over the rice.

From the first bite of the Pummelo fruit our friend seemed to float away in happiness. I watched his face for the same reaction I had when I had my first taste of Boda and it took only seconds. He nodded his head and smiled. And he reacted, in turn, to every dish that followed. The taro fries, coming in more of a steak cut than the past shoestring variety, were the best batch we’ve had to date. Just crunchy enough, while being more meaty than they had in the past. The pork stuffed jalapeno’s were addictive, to say the least. The pork held a nice lime bite, which coupled nicely with the kick of the pepper. I hope this special app. sold well that night, because I’d like to see this on the menu again.

Again, I found myself unable to veer from the Beef Panaeng and was just as blissed out as the previous times. If I were to lodge a complaint, and it would simply be for the sake of it, I do wish they served just a wee bit more of the curry with the dish. Make the beef swim, I’m not picky, I just want more of it.
The Fried Rice with Crab was beyond any expectation that was held at the table. The rice was perfectly done and was more than generous with the whole Jonah crab claws, which you were hitting with your fork every time you set it into the mound of rice. A chili sauce, that was served on the side, gave you the option of firing things up a bit more if you so chose to do and was definitely appreciated by our friend who ate the rice down to the last grain.

So, what can I say? Boda, in my book, is the best Thai place in town. If you go, don’t go there with preconceived notions based on Take Out Thai. Go with an empty belly and an open mind. And try a lot of different things. Order enough for left overs, trust me on this the panaeng is quite yummy cold when you’re intoxicated. But, by all means, just go.

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33 dishes, 5 restaurants, 3 days, 2 people–Day One

The Mission: Challenge myself to dine at 4 restaurants during “Restaurant Week” over the short course of two days; consume approx. 6 courses over the span of 5 hours. My partner, whose dishes are also included in this count, joined me on 4 of , what turned into, 5.

This was all well and good until we decided to start things a smidge early and stop by for a first look at Boda.
They were not “officially” participating in Maine Restaurant Week, but they are a restaurant in Maine, so I think they qualify to be counted.

Boda
March 4, 2010–7:30ish

First impression: I want to live there or, if I can’t, then I want to steal all of their wood tables (salvaged wood that was shipped from Thailand). The walls are earth tones and decorations simple. Stripped down and comfortable, it was homey. I can see why they wanted this to be the antithesis of Bangkok and it’s mass of take out–here, they make it so you never want to leave. The only odd piece is the large tv above the bar in the back. When we were there they were playing BBC America, so it wasn’t obnoxious as say, COPS. On first glimpses this was a far cry from Bangkok and I was already grateful.
We were seated, ordered House made Mango Iced Teas and proceeded to have an unexpectedly amazing meal.


Split:
Fried taro sticks: seasoned with sea salt. Served with spicy chili Sriracha sauce
Pork belly skewers: marinated with salt, sprinkled with chopped scallion.

The presentation on the Taro Sticks was great: simple spider cradling a decent batch of fresh taro fries. And it’s served with Sriracha. Really you need more? Ok, they were perfect. Now, fry them in duckfat and I would dub them “Grandruler of All Fries in Portland!” They would be stern, but gentle rulers.
Grilled Pork belly was nice, nothing overly fancy. The ridge of fat at the top had a decided crunch that was a bit surprising. I’m still debating if they would have benefited from some sort of sauce or if they were served as they should be and I’m just missing it.

The Mrs.: Pork hocks braised with Star Anise Simmered in a rich dark stock made with “parlow spice”(Chinese five spice). Served with jasmine steamed rice, hardboiled egg, tofu, Asian mustard green pickles, and spicy & sour chili sauce. One of the most popular street foods in Thailand.

Me: Beef Panaeng: Braised beef in a flavorful panaeng curry paste (salty and sweet with aromas of Thai basil and lime leaves with a background taste of peanuts) and coconut cream, served with jasmine steamed rice. Panaeng curry is one of the most popular dishes in the Thai repertoire.

Ok, I do have to confess that I got nearly a bit weepy when my meal was placed in front of me and I was taken back to BABA, a Malaysian restaurant in NYC that closed after 9/11. Only there, it was Beef Rendang. And it was my favorite dish in the world. And I’ve been chasing that particular dish, or one to match it of that level, for nearly 10 years. The beef was painfully tender, slightly spicy and drizzled with coconut cream to bring the dish around with a bit of sweetness. While this one had it’s particular regional differences, it was just as comforting. Though the portions are generous there, I have to say that I held back on my hunger so I could have something to bring home to savor later on. I tried to convey all of this to the waitress, she just smiled and looked a bit sad for me.
But, through my own Oprah moment at my plate, my partner was presented with the most tenderly shredded ham hock I have ever seen. And, god, the sauce that was served with it was rich and earthy; peppery with a bit of sour. I picked at her plate as often as I could tear myself away from my own. The only odd thing for me was the pickled egg–just odd. She, too, ended up having enough to take home and enjoy later that night.
The last course was inevitable. I wouldn’t stop going on about how happy the food made me and how I truly didn’t want the experience to end until I was at complete and utter sensory satiation.

Dessert:
Chinese Doughnut: Fried dough, coffee served over ice cream
Thai Rice Pudding
Vietnamese Coffee

First, I’m going to be a 5yr old and state that ‘Chinese Doughnut’ is my new favorite term for a highly inappropriate sex act. I know it’s wrong and immature, but it’s funny..so it’s mine. For a doughnut, of any sort, it was kind of meh.
However, the black thai rice pudding was striking in appearance and delicious beyond words. Thick with coconut and sweetened condensed milk, the only thing missing were some black eyed peas and I would have been food bliss overdrive. I’m not sure if this is a regular item that they make, but I highly recommend you order it if given the chance.

Actually, I hold that to all of the dishes that we sampled.

Breakdown:
Ambiance:
I want all of the furniture in my next house. No campy decorations, tourism posters or weird animals hanging from the ceiling.
Service: Younger waitress, a bit inexperienced or just flighty. Ok, but not great. Hostess/Manager was definitely on top of things, swooping in behind our waitress when drinks were refilled or dishes cleared. Probably one of the most attentive hosts in Portland.
Food: Brought Thai in Portland to a whole new level. We left very happy and it actually made us very interested in trying their other venture, The Green Elephant.

Overall 8/10

Boda on Urbanspoon

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