Welcome to the first installation of the Portland Tastes of Thai Project, in which 9 food bloggers and writers will eat at and review all 14 Thai restaurants in Portland! Stay tuned for a new review every 2 weeks and see Portland Food Map for the links to the other writer's reviews.
Our first stop was Sala Thai out on Washington Ave. at Allen Ave. I stopped by for dinner with my friend A. We were seated at a table for two in the front of the restaurant, which obviously used to be a fast-food restaurant (Wendy's is my guess). That said, they did a pretty good job of disguising that fact, with a lot of busy Thai-themed decorations (screens, gold whoosits, digglies hanging from the ceiling, busily patterned curtains, etc.). Very kitschy, but cute. After we settled in, A. and I both ordered Singha, a Thai beer.
To start, I had the Fresh Spring Rolls ($4.99) available in pork or veggie. I asked for pork, but either the pork was indiscernible or I got the veggies ones. No matter, the rolls were great, with a nice basil kick and a great sweet and sour (with lots of crazy peanut dust) dipping sauce.
For my entree, I ordered the Laab Gai ($11.99) or ground chicken, lettuce, onions, red onions, lemon grass, lemon leaves, scallions, and dry ground chili. I have loved this dish ever since I had the most amazing version of it in California. I have also had some really bad versions, all dried out. So I get a little nervous when I order it- what if it's dry? What if it makes me regret not just ordering curry? (I've yet to meet a Thai curry I don't like.)
And while I wasn't disappointed, this Laab Gai didn't quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. It could have used more veggies underneath, and while I got a great lemongrass zing every other bite, I wasn't blown away by the seasonings. At least it wasn't dry!
A. got the Masaman curry ($10.99 for tofu), and I was a kind of surprised by how little she got for the price. It was a tiny dish, and there's no price difference for the vegetarian and meat options- except the $12.99 duck. But the peanut-y curry was sweet and flavorful and there was lots of veggies with her tofu.
Competition for Thai food is stiff in Portland! While this is only Round 1, this place didn't wow me on price or taste. Grade: B-