I have a confession to make: I am 100% biased towards this restaurant. When you walk into PaaDee, you step into a memory of Thailand. Above you, the bird-cage lamp shades share the story of the old man sitting in a Bangkok alley with his birds in wooden cages. At PaaDee, they hold captive the warm inviting light of Edison bulbs. Nestled on the corner of E Burnside and 28th in what I call an “Ikea Building” (because they look assembled), Earl has created a world that has become the perfect marriage of Portland industrial, vintage warmth and the welcoming heart of what is Thai. Adam and I have been frequenting PaaDee since they opened just over a year ago November. Owned by the ever modest, incredibly kind Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom, PaaDee is Thai like you’ve never had it. There’s this noodle bowl that causes cravings in me that stop me in my tracks. House made egg noodles in a bright and spicy lime & pork broth, ground pork, roasted red pork, crispy pork belly. Ba Mhee. We’ve tried many, many foods on the menu, but the Ba Mhee is something we always, always come back for. We have t-shirts that will forever be broth-stained due to haphazardly, and enthusiastically slurped noodles. It is our crack and somehow we often show amazing restraint and save half for breakfast the next day. You should try it.
Last night, I had the honor of photographing Portland Food Adventures at PaaDee. Selfishly, I offered to shoot it because I knew it would be an opportunity to try new foods and recipes that I may otherwise never would. Earl was being given an opportunity to flex his creative cooking muscles and I wanted to be there to reap the rewards. And boy did he. Earl invited three Thai chefs (who should be famous) from the Portland area to cook for us last night and they lavished us with foods that you may only ever eat if you’re in Thailand and are lucky enough to find where the locals eat. Earl wanted our dinner to be a true Portland Food Adventure and he did not disappoint. There were these dumplings that you may only ever eat on a very special Thai occasion. Intricately shaped flowers stuffed with pork, radish, shallots and peanuts. Delicately colored with with the broth of purple cabbage. I could have easily eaten a whole plate of them.
Each dish at last night’s intimate gathering of food enthusiasts was perfectly and distinctly paired by bartending great, Alan Akwai. Alan was so precise with his pairings that he even called a sake expert friend, who is currently in Japan learning how to make sake, for pairing advice for our Dungeness crab soup. And, yes, it was phenomenal. Did I mention we had mango mimosas? Oh, yes.
The next Portland Food Adventures will be at Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon. If you haven’t been to Le Pigeon before then you must partake in this Adventure. Chris is offering two sittings as Le Pigeon is a cozy and intimate space and, trust me, this dinner will sell out fast.
In the meantime, I leave you with photos and our menu from last night and hope to see you at PaaDee next time we’re there…which will likely be in a week.