December 2009

THE DINING REPORT –  A Second Look at del Inti


This was a private event, not a Restaurant Roulette dinner, but a return to a restaurant we had visited earlier this year.

Every once in awhile something good comes my way because I labor over this blog, usually free food or even a free meal. In this vein, I was recently invited for an introductory meal at del Inti, the introducing in this case to a new chef coming on board to supplement the efforts of del Inti owner/chep Ignacio Del Solar. As the dinner was billed as being mainly for jounalists, I was a bit confused why I was invited, as I’m just a schmoe with a blog, but as the woman who was doing the inviting to this event kindly explained to me, del Inti had remembered the review I had posted on the blog concerning our dinner that had taken place there early in 2009, and as it was relatively extensive, decided to pencil me in. So although I felt somewhat like a critic impostor, I thanked Stephanie Hughes-Pratt heartily, and marked down on my calendar the date for the proposed lunch. Due to an lack of bodies able to attend, the lunch was changed to a dinner about a week later, all the better for me I thought, because who cares about free lunch when they can have free dinner!! (So says the glutton in me!)

So it was early on an absolutely freezing cold December Wednesday that I made my way to del Inti on Alberta, expecting a horde of journalists to hob nob with and feel like an impostor around (I was apprehensive, because I’m actually just a shy gal.) I was the first to arrive, and was shown to our table for, drumroll please, four. About five minutes in I was informed we would be a riotous group of three, as the WW woman had the H1N1 virus, or something dubious like that, and that made me glad she was not so gluttonous as myself, considering she had put hers and others physical well being over free fine dining restaurant food (that would be a tough choice for me.) It did make me wonder about the brain capacity of other keyboard bashers around town though, how could you decline an all encompassing free meal from a really decent restaurant, especially one that serves the always unique food of Peru? What’s wrong with you chuckleheads? (Not that I know what that is, but it doesn’t sound like the brightest thing to be.) But as Stephanie H.P. noted, oh well, more food for us!! (more…)

The Dining Report – The Red Onion

What’s With All This Dang Food?  A Menu You Can’t Refuse!

As everyone knows, Portland has been inundated with Thai restaurants over the last 10-15 years, 90% a cookie cutter mold of the one down the street. It’s like people from Thailand come here and say, okay, Americans like Pad Thai, and Pad Kee Mao, and salad rolls, and three or four curries. Let’s build our restaurant around those dishes, throw in a few others, make them like everyone else, work really hard, then we’ll be a success, even if we are the same as every other Thai place. In a “dining town” like Portland, this really is not the way it should go, 50 marginal Thai restaurants, each with their small legion of fans.

IMG_1319Aside from Typhoon, which has always had innovations on their menu next to the standards, it took food visionaries from “these parts” to bring anything interesting and unusual to our local “Thai table”, Andy Richter from Pok Pok and the folks at Siam Society understanding that Portland is a dining destination in the 21st century, and palates around here are more than ready to experience more non-conventional Thai food preparations and embrace them. Pok Pok is really more of S.E. Asian restaurant though, many items have Vietnamese origins, and one of the main reasons to go to Siam Society is that it’s a really cool place to eat, the food is fine, but really not the main draw in my opinion, it’s “the scene”.

So where are those daring Thai people out there, those who understand that Americans are ready to try the unusual and unknown? (after all, how many dumb westerners try those ghastly “Crispy Pig Intestines” at Malay Satay Hut? Even I had a bite of those delicacies, and I can tell you, nasty.) Evidently someone has been twisting Dang Boonyakamol’s arm, because now, with his third Portland restaurant (he sold the other two, Chaba and Dang’s Thai Kitchen) more and more unusual Thai recipes are appearing on his menu, and Dang’s newest restaurant, Red Onion Thai Cuisine, actually has a separate special menu of authentic and daring (for these parts) Thai favorites. So perhaps it’s not too surprising to see that not only has Red Onion already become the best reviewed restaurant in Dang’s Portland repertoire, it looks to be his most popular one as well (although Chaba Thai, the first PDX restaurant he owned, remains very popular to this day). A glowing review in the A&E and being Willamette Weeks co-runner-up for restaurant of the year last month certainly hasn’t hurt Red Onion’s popularity, and besides the pleasant atmosphere and excellent execution of Thai standards, most of the praise has been heaped on Dang’s special “No Refuse” menu of more unfamiliar Northern Thailand cuisine. (more…)