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Source: Accidental Vegetables

Restaurant Visits

From staff reports 12/30/2007

Since we weren't here over the weekend we ended up eating out a ton of meals this week. My friend Sarah was also here on Friday night, so we did a little wandering of the town.

Thanh Thanh 2
First, I should mention that I had lunch at Thanh Thanh 2 for the second time this week, and I continue to be favorably impressed. My first meal there was Bun-- thin rice noodles with grilled shrimp and fried spring rolls. It's served with nuoc cham, the fish-sauce based dipping sauce that's ubiquitous in Vietnamese cuisine. The rolls we crispy and delicious, and the meal was overall lovely. This past visit I had the mixed salad, which is a mix of shredded cabbage and onion, shredded chicken, and grilled shrimp, served with a few of those funny rice cracker things. This, too, was delicious-- light and zesty, with a lemony dressing. My friend Alysia (who I was lunching with) tells me it's her favorite.

Empire Dine + Dance

I really wanted to like Empire, but when Otis, Sarah, and I walked in on Friday night, something immediately felt off. The space feels cavernous, and there's no decor at all to soften the feel. The tables are widely spaced, and the chairs are uncomfortable wooden models you'd expect to see at someone's camp. When we sat down, we intended to have dinner, but a glance at the menu convinced us otherwise. It was an odd assortment of dishes-- quite a few burgers, but then everything else seemed sort of randomly thrown on there: tortellini, mango quesadillas, fried chicken wings... we decided to have a beer and assess further.

While we drank our beers (they do have a nice array of beers on tap-- nothing too unique but certainly a good selection) the people sitting next to us received their food. It looked unappetizing, honestly. I feel a bit bad saying this, especially because the owners were there and seemed like really nice guys, but unless they get their act together I don't have a good feeling about their long-term success. They need to find a theme for their food and stick with it-- especially because the prices were too high for strict bar fare.

Pom's Thai Taste
Pom's on the other hand, is ready to kick ass in the Thai restaurant wars brewing in Portland. We walked there after leaving Empire, and were immediately impressed with the space. It's very open and light feeling, with modernistic white tables, chairs, and light fixtures. As we were leaving, Pom, the owner, stopped by to ask how we enjoyed our meal, and she told us Ikea was her inspiration for the decor. You can tell, but it's not a bad thing-- it's actually a very comfortable.

The menus, on the other hand, were insane. If you've ever watched Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares you'll know that he's always obsessing about how too many restaurants have these excessively long menus. Well, Pom's takes the cake. Not only is the menu ridiculously long (which is par for the course for a lot of Thai places), but it's presented in a photo album style with photos of each dish-- the album is about 3 inches thick! It's a little much.

However, we soldiered through and ordered. We shared veggie dumplings to start-- these have chives inside them, and I didn't like them much. I wouldn't necessarily hold too much stock in that, however-- I've had them other places and didn't like them. I think the combination of pillowy dough and limp chives is just not my thing. I gave most of mine to Otis. For his entree, he got Pad See-Ew with duck. He said it was delicious, and he was especially favorably impressed with the amount of duck.

Sarah and I each got "kuay-teow", which is an al la carte noodle soup which was fantastic. You can choose a variety of rice noodle sizes, bean thread noodles (woon sen, my favorite, which is what I ordered), or rice; a variety of meats (I got ground chicken), seafoods, or tofu and veggies (that's what Sarah ordered); and a type of broth-- clear chicken, five-spice, veggie, or tom yum (both of us ordered Tom Yum. Yum.). Then, you may opt for the addition of ground peanuts, and choose how spicy your broth should be. The soup also comes with bean sprouts, lettuce, scallion, cilantro, and garlic oil.

This noodle dish was so damn incredibly tasty that I think I could literally eat it every day. The tom yum broth was perfectly balanced, and 4 stars (the spiciest on their scale) was actually perfectly spicy. I love bean thread noodles, which are actually made out of ground mung beans instead of flour, but rarely find that they are an option in soup. The ground chicken was perfect in the soup as well, although I was a little jealous of Sarah's array of veg, which included snow peas and bok choy.

Overall our experience at Pom's was outstanding. Pom herself was very friendly and seemed honestly interested in our feedback-- and I can see that there's a reason this is the third restaurant she's opened in the Portland area. (The other two are in South Portland, one on Cottage Road on the way to Cape Elizabeth, and the other by the mall.) She mentioned she's been busy for lunch but not as much during dinner. Hopefully she'll be successful and stay there for a long time, since I have the feeling that I'm going to be going there for a tom yum fix fairly frequently.

And, what's even better? Pom's delivers.