In Portland, there is Pok Pok, and then there is every other Thai restaurant. Earl Ninsom has a vision to bring his own voice to the conversation by introducing the flavors of his youth (and recruiting talent from his home country) to Portland. In 2011, he opened PaaDee, a comfort food-centric Thai eatery off East Burnside. Last year, he helped launch Tarad, a grab ‘n’ go shack and Asian market on SE Morrison. Now Ninsom is entering the ambitious world of tasting menus and traditional cuisine rarely seen stateside with Lang Baan (back of the house), debuting in February next door to PaaDee.
Lang Baan will be led by Ninsom and a few star players drafted from the trenches in Thailand, including an alum of Thai food legend David Thompson’s Michelin-starred Nahm in Bangkok. Twenty seats and a four-stool bar will play center stage for an always-changing five-course prix fixe menu that spans Thailand’s diverse culinary landscape. “You can’t find these dishes anywhere else in the United States,” says Ninsom. “We’ve been sourcing 200-year-old cookbooks from the Grand Palace in Bangkok for inspiration. This is seriously old-school Thai cooking.”
Early blueprints call for an array of nahm prik (chile relishes), raw dishes, from spicy scallop ceviche to cured salmon, grilled bites (think skewered sai aou sausage with charred pepper relish), and soups, like gang aom with quail breast and kabocha squash. The whole shebang will run $30–50.
Starting in December, Ninsom has plans to open up the space for cooking classes twice a month, kicking off with a kids-only course. “My brother and I started cooking when we were little kids—it’s an important thing to learn. Besides, they listen to instructions better than adults.”
Lang Baan will be open for lunch from noon to 4 on Sundays, and for dinner on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 5pm to 10pm. Stay tuned for more details.