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.
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.
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.
Fried taro sticks: seasoned with sea salt. Served with spicy chili Sriracha sauce
Pork belly skewers: marinated with salt, sprinkled with chopped scallion.
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.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.
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.
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: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.
Chinese Doughnut: Fried dough, coffee served over ice cream
Thai Rice Pudding
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.
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.