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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Fri 11:00am–3:00pm
Mon–Fri 5:00pm–9:00pm
Sat–Sun noon–9:00pm

Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

Northwest Portland
1123 NW 23rd Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 208-2634
Red Onion Thai
A tale of two Thai restaurants

This city’s dining scene is peppered with occasional bursts of hysteria surrounding one restaurant or another opening, reinventing itself, having a massive change in staff, or having been flying under the radar of Portland’s restaurant-going population for years. Red Onion Thai is one such burst, having opened in the space that used to house MisoHapi. (And we’re so happy that we don’t have to deal with that over-the-top goofy name anymore.) It was met with lots of positive press, and comparisons to Pok Pok, Portland’s holy grail of Thai food, were hinted at—but only in hushed tones.

Your average Thai takeout joint in America serves gloopy, sweet dishes like pad Thai, which doesn’t really exist (at least in the American form) in Thailand, at least outside of tourist traps. Along Khao San Road, which is Bangkok’s backpacker epicenter, you can get Nutella and banana crêpes. But that doesn’t mean they’re Thai.

And, what do you know, pad Thai stares right up at you from this menu. But so do a host of other interesting dishes that you don’t see at your #6-lunch-special joint, especially on the “Thai Specials” menu, which you sometimes have to ask for. (The specials were previously strictly off-the-menu, but after the blogosphere spilled the beans, Red Onion wised up and printed them up.)

We like the pork-filled deep-fried squid, and pandanus-leaf chicken. Delicious, too, are larb moo (spicy salad) made with pork tongue and liver; Chiang Mai sausage; and naam prik ong (ground pork simmered with chili paste and tomato). Tom mamuang and pla trout ta krob, for instance, is a version of the classic sour-and-spicy green mango and crispy shredded catfish salad, but it’s done with trout instead of catfish, and it’s exquisite.

So hang out in the part of the menu that the Thai in-crowd does. It will make you so much happier.

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