Don’t go to Boda expecting “everyday” Thai food. This is not the restaurant to visit if you need your pad thai or green curry fix. It’s also not the place to call if are looking for something to eat on the couch while watching this week’s episode of Lost (indeed, Boda doesn’t do take out). You’ll find no encyclopedic menus listening dozens of different Thai food “favorites” here. Instead, what you will find is a restaurant serving food that is unlike anything else available in Portland.
According to its website, the restaurant features “street vendor specialties” and “home-style” cooking. It also emphasizes that Boda features “authentic” Thai food as opposed to the “Americanized” Thai food at most other area restaurants. Having never been to Thailand, I cannot vouch for the food’s authenticity. What I can say is, based on my first visit, the food is different and mostly all delicious.
Fried taro sticks with sea salt. Served with a sweet/spicy Sriracha chili sauce, these taro “fries” were an interesting alternative to french fries. They were lacking in salt and didn’t quite have the crispness of a good french fry. Nonetheless, dipped in the Sriracha sauce, they were a satisfying start to the meal and we quickly cleared the plate.
Homemade Thai Northern-style sausage. A small sliced sausage, served unadorned, this dish featured a lively chili kick. I also detected garlic and maybe ginger in this assertively spiced homemade sausage. We enjoyed this, but the sausage looked a bit lonely on the plate with no garnishes or accompaniments.
Pork belly skewers. Two small skewers with pieces of grilled pork belly “marinated” with salt and topped with scallions. No other spices, no sauces, just the salty taste of slightly charred pork and pork fat. Good, simple, food.
Whole prawn skewers. These were a disappointment. Served head on, one to a skewer, the shrimp was overcooked and mealy. The “chili, garlic lime dipping sauce,” while tasty, couldn’t rescue the dish. Moreover, after removing the heads and getting to the shrimp meat, we were left with two bites of food for $7. I’ll happily pay that for two outstanding bites of food (for example, good sushi); but not for this.
Pork hocks braised with star anise. A fantastic plate of food. The centerpiece of the dish is a generous pile of tender boneless pork, with a few pieces of tofu mixed in, as well as a split hard-boiled egg. Surrounding the pork on the outside of the plate was jasmine rice, a small cup of “Asian mustard green pickles,” a small cup of “spicy & sour chili sauce,” and a tiny pitcher of extra Chinese five-spice stock. If the dish solely consisted of the pork served over rice, I’d have been happy. The richly flavored pork could stand alone. But, the pickles and chili brought everything to the next level, allowing us to add unique flavors to each different bites. If I wasn’t full, I’d have requested more rice to enjoy with the remaining stock.