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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
7.5
7.0
$25
Thai
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:00am–9:00pm
Fri 11:00am–9:30pm
Sat 3:00pm–9:30pm

Features Kid-friendly
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.kinarathai.com

Southwest Portland
1126 SW 18th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 227-5161
Kinara Thai Bistro
This tiny Thai powerhouse turns out authenticity, if not consistency

It seems like there are hundreds of Thai restaurants in Portland with little to differentiate them. Sugary pad Thai, dried-out meat, and curry paste from a jar seem to be the norm. Yet we’re always pleasantly surprised by Kinara Thai Bistro. It uses local and sustainable produce in its cooking and corn-oil-based compostable containers for their to-go items. These things alone set the place above most Thai restaurants in Portland.

Kinara’s duck rolls sound terrible at first (flour tortilla? Hoisin sauce?)—and certainly aren’t Thai—but are worth ordering. The flavors are bright and fresh and the textural interplay between the crispy duck and the other ingredients is just terrific. Another hilarious menu description, “vegetarian dumplings with a saccharine soy sauce,” belies the fact that the small, light dumplings, stuffed with crunchy vegetables—again, more Chinese than Thai—are not sweet at all. In fact, you can make out every vegetable inside of each, especially if you go light on the average-tasting dipping sauce. We’re hesitant to try “calamari Chardonnay,” but we should know by now that we’re in good hands.

Nahm dtok, grilled beef salad, is the best we’ve tried in Portland. It’s one hell of a feat to accomplish, considering that the ingredients include mixed greens, radicchio, carrots, onions, scallions, cucumbers, bell peppers, grilled sirloin, coriander, mint, and toasted rice. If any of the components were overused, the entire salad would be thrown off, but this salad shows great balance. Kinara’s beef is of excellent quality, a cut above most Thai restaurants—tender, moist, and with just the right amount of fat.

Pad Thai, that dish of falsely reported authenticity that’s usually just dessert in an American-sweet-tooth-pandering noodle dish, is much better balanced here than usual, although on some visits it’s been ordinary and muted. Pad kee mao is also more authentic than the norm, with fat rice noodles, basil, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and Thai chili.

Kinara offers your choice of brown rice or jasmine rice with the stew dishes. Panang curry has a rich flavor, medium heat, and lots of complexity that builds as you eat. Beef massaman runs a close second to Siam Society’s version, while green curry is just average.

The only significant problem here is consistency. We’ve had the same dish turn out completely different over two nights. But when it’s on, it’s really on. The restaurant is small, but perhaps understaffed. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t tell you how good it is, or we’ll never get our food.

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