drunken noodles, pad thai, thai, Thai-o-rama

Thai-O-Rama pt. 10: Vientiane

When I first started visiting, then subsequently moving to, Portland I quickly became familiarized with a few places around. Places like Benkay, Portland Public Market and Vientiane became my ‘go-to’s’ when ever I was up for a weekend. But, a lot changes in six years. Portland Public Market has been relocated and renamed. Benkay has long been replaced by King of the Roll as our place for inexpensive and tasty sushi. Yet, for a while, Vientiane remained a sentimental favorite for us. For me, while the food was filling and inexpensive, it was the smile of the owner–a woman whose name I can’t remember–and who was always dressed nicer than the interior called for. She was always very kind, very engaging and very thankful. So, it’s easy to understand why we went there so often, she made me feel familiar in a town that I was a complete stranger in.

But, again, a lot changes. I had heard from the Missus that the owner retired and passed the establishment onto her son and/or daughter over a year ago. Truthfully, until June, it had been over a year and a half since we had gotten take out from here and my last venture, completely on a whim and feeling sentimental, wasn’t that fantastic. Two stars, to both the Drunken Noodles and Laab Gai, left my mouth uncomfortably burned and unable to enjoy the meal. But, because I loved this place so much, I chalked it up to my own fault for not ordering one star. Duly noted and not a mistake I would repeat again.

So, when the heat index on Monday reached well into the low 90’s, I was so thankful that we would be picking up Vientiane for dinner. Thankful that I didn’t have to cook and looking forward to our first Thai–outside of Boda–in a while.

The Missus opted for the Pad Thai, minus shrimp as she’s adverse to the shellfish since a bad experience back in March at Vietbangkok Thai. This use to be her favorite Pad Thai, but when I asked her for her opinion of it after she started digging in she replied, “Oddly sweet.”

“Do you want any of my Noodles?” I asked.
“No, thanks, they look like a volcanic bed of fire,” she replied

She was right. My trying to undo the last experience I had with the dish, knocking down the heat level from two stars to one, didn’t quite work. It was, it seemed, as hot as it had been in June. Thankfully, though, the nuoc mam sauce that came with our standard issue non-Thai Rangoon, was just sweet and acidic enough to cut into the heat. I’m sure it was also helped by the fact that I stirred in some of her Pad Thai to lower the temperature a bit. Otherwise, the flavors and ingredients were wonderful and, as it has always been, the portion was generous for the price. But, a short time after the meal, I reflected that it didn’t ‘Wow’ me as it once had.

Later on that evening we talked about our dishes and I came to a conclusion: Perhaps, over the past six years of trying other places in town, it wasn’t really Vientiane that had changed but us. The meal was still enjoyable, just not the best we’ve had. Our tastes and preferences now lie elsewhere in the Thai spectrum offered in and around Portland. Like any relationship that fades away because people change I have this to say to Vientiane, “I’m sorry, it’s not you–it’s me.”

Vientiane Market on Urbanspoon

drunken noodles, pad thai, red bean ice cream rocks, Thai-o-rama

Thai-O-Rama Pt. 4–Pom’s Thai Taste

Finally, some decent Thai Food. After 2 rounds of questionable meals (and a missed round at Kon) I’m back on the moped for another round of the glorious Thai-O-Rama with my fellow interweb bloggers.
This round brought us to Pom’s Thai Taste, on Congress, on a rainy Monday night on the way home from work. After the Mrs. had her bad shrimp experience at Bangkok we had been laying off the thai for a while (except for uber-treat that was Boda a few weeks back) but our meal at Pom’s brought us quickly back to the happy place that Thai tends to send us to.
While the interior is very obviously ‘Thailand meets Ikea”–from the tables to the wall hanging wine rack–it is also one of the cleanest and simplest interior. Overall the dining room is bright and cheery without the feeling of being campy or gaudy. The food also falls into the line of pretty simple and straightforward (and if you’re still finding it not so, there is a little cheat guide to basic Thai food on the inside of the front cover of the menu).

Our meals started off with a pair of Thai Iced Teas and these are some of the best we’ve had along the way. An ungodly neon orange color laid way to a slight bitter/slight sweet concoction that didn’t make our teeth ache as some can overdo the ‘sweet’ aspect of the drink. Our only complaint of this was that it took about 10 minutes before our drink/dinner order was taken after we were seated and, well, we were never asked if we wanted a refill during our dinner. R. dug the service, while I felt it could have been a little more present.

Apps ordered were fried spring rolls and Kra-Tong Thong, pretty much staples where ever we can find them. While the spring rolls were pretty meh, the Kra-Tong have never disappointed, slightly spicy and crunchy, they come nicely paired with a slightly sweet cucumber chutney–which I believe is just nom pla, sugar, chili, garlic and cucumbers.

Entrees ordered were Drunken Noodle w/Chicken(my standard and listed as Pad Khee-Mao) and Pad Thai. While my dish was earthy and rich with a mild oyster sauce base, the Mrs. was given one of the most mild versions of Pad Thai we’ve encountered. Ok, it was bland as if no seasoning was present at all. When it was first set down in front of her, she kept saying “This smells odd”, but after a few sniffs it was determined that the smell was the presence of the scrambled egg in the dish and there was a lot of it. With no hints of an acid of any sort, lime or lemon or any spice, her dish was greatly helped by the addition of tamari that was served with three other sauces brought to us by our waitress. I opted for the hottest of the four to add to mine, to lift the flavor a bit, and was met with pure thai chili fire that burned in the best of ways.

Needing something to squelch the fire that was setting my tongue ablaze, we opted to order a few desserts to bring things down a bit and we weren’t disappointed in our choices of Thai rice pudding and Red bean ice cream.

Both dishes were beautifully and playfully plated and a wonderful ending to the meal. I, especially, loved the little bits of red bean that was scattered in the ice cream like chocolate chips.

Overall, the Pad Thai was the most mediocre part of the meal but was saved by some table side seasoning. This meal was a nice reminder that there is some great, approachable Thai closer to home than we normally travel to out for. It’s easy to see, based on the environment and quality of food how Pom, the owner of three Thai places around the area, has built herself a nice mini-empire of restaurants. The best of the three we’ve had so far.

Poms Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon