10 November 2021
Udom Somboon is the best Thai food in Portland. updated January 2022: And sadly now, closed
It’s not meant to be a traditional Thai experience and won’t be, for anyone, unless perhaps you’ve grown up eating Thai food cooked by a Northwest native in a village somewhere in Thailand. With Northwest ingredients. But no matter. The concept dreamed up by Thanapat Namsri, Thipsuda Phatumratanachot, and Ammy Nguyen — cooking Thai specialties not found elsewhere in Portland (even despite the great expansion of what Thai food meant, thanks to dear departed Pok Pok) — is delightfully invented and re-invented with an amazing array of perfect, unexpected dishes that satisfy whether you are vegan, a meat-lover, a seafood aficionado, or an advocate of high spice.
We began with a vegan dish that wasn’t at all what I would expect to see on a Thai menu: Brussels sprouts with cashew vinaigrette and sesame. I quickly learned: when it comes to Udom Somboon, don’t question, just order.
After having seafood at another, more expensive, more famous Thai restaurant the day before, I was leery of trying more when we made the extemporaneous decision to come for dinner; a tour guest who was friend of one of the owners had suggested it. I am so glad we ordered the Triple Squid Linguine (squid ink pasta, squid and onions in a squid ink sauce). I have never, not once in my entire lifetime of eating food, had squid that tender and perfect — and I once had a job preparing and cooking squid. I will dream of this dish every time I mention it for a very long time.
I ordered an absolutely ridiculous sounding dish, Katso X Khao Soi, Thai style dry egg noodle with crispy chicken breast, coconut cream sauce, pickled mustard greens and house chili oil. This dish also comes in vegan form with crispy Ota tofu, which I intend to try next time I visit. By the end of the meal all three of us were (courteously and generously) fighting over finishing it. My best description is a mashup between a yellow curry, bento karaage, Pad Thai and bird’s nest noodles. It’s just wonderful. Every bite was perfect.
The other dish we ordered and fought over was the “Waterfall,” a salad-style meal with grilled pork, red onion, tomato, scallion, spicy lime and fish sauce, and a generous portion of sticky rice. Again I can not overstate how surprising and absolutely perfect this dish was.
Because the restaurant was opened recently, during the pandemic, the menu includes a full and creative complement of mocktails and cocktails, as well as sake, beer and wine.
There is really no need to leave room for dessert. After a meal as perfect as this one, who needs sweets?
Edited January 2022: Udom Somboon, 2512 NE Broadway, Portland, Oregon is permanently closed.