Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Noi Now Open, For Lunch, too

Bend's newest Thai restaurant offers delicious, if mostly Americanized, versions of classic dishes.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 10:06 PM

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So, Noi. Um, yeah.

Bend’s newest Thai restaurant, which opened this week for dinner and lunch in the old Typhoon! location downtown, is f’ing delicious.

The Seattle-based Chaiseeha family leased the building earlier this summer and have combined art shipped directly from Thailand with items purchased from Typhoon!. We stopped in for lunch on Tuesday.

The space they’ve created feels similar to its predecessor, but with much more gold art on the walls, lending a more traditional Thai feeling to the place rather than the more urban-inspired mood of the Portland-grown Typhoon!.

The long, white filmy curtains still hang in the space, the dark wood lining the walls remains and the chairs, tables and napkins appear to have been re-appropriated, as well.

Noi is the latest addition to a group of restaurants owned by the Chaiseeha family, many members of which still live in Thailand. In fact, Darren Powderly president of Compass Commercial who brokered the deal for the Franklin Crossing space, said the lease was sent to Bangkok for final signing.

Despite that it was the first day of lunch service, operations were smooth, possibly owing to the experienced staff drawn from the former Typhoon! team, the now defunct Bourbon Street and other upscale restaurants in town.

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But back to the food.

The difference between Noi and a lot of other Thai food we’ve ever had was it’s light character and clarity of flavor.

The dishes and sauces are made in-house, from scratch. For instance, the sweet chili sauce that accompanied our appetizer of fluffy, crispy crab wontons was tarter than most versions of the sauce—likely from an extra splash of some sharp rice wine vinegar.

We tried the red, yellow and green curries and were impressed by the decidedly different flavor profiles. Each was thick on the tongue with its spice base, but thinned to a consistency we liked with high-quality coconut cream. We tried these with two of the five types of rice. We had garlic and ginger rice, but you can also choose coconut, jasmine or brown. The rice was so good, my dining partner and I agreed we would have eaten it on its own with nothing on top.

The pad Thai was remarkable in a town with a number of pretty good choices for this popular dish. Again, the word we used was light. There was no greasiness, no heaviness. The prawns that topped the stack of springy noodles were cooked just to done and the tofu and eggs in the dish appeared made to order.

Finally, because we are gluttons, we ordered the crispy garlic chicken. The chicken came deep fried in a honey garlic coating topped with crispy basil leaves. Was tasty, but a little on the crunchy/chewy side.

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We didn’t ask for additional or less spice and the heat was just right for my totally lame ability to tolerate it. For those that want more juice, it’s there. The restaurant’s little spice caddy had some serious options for upping the ante—straight chili flakes, a thick chili sauce, chunks of chili in oil and some sort of jalapeno water.

Though we didn’t order drinks, there were fun choices here, too, including five different kinds of Thai iced tea, coconut juice and several other fruity concoctions. They also have a full bar.

Price point was high. We spent $50 on lunch with tip, but obviously we went a little crazy when ordering. Lunch specials run around $10. Dinner entrees anywhere from $13 to about $25.

Bottom line: worth the money.


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