Monday, July 20, 2009

Light Lunch

Lunch is to budget foodies as Goodwill is to penny-pinching fashionistas. If I want to try out a high-end place before plunking down serious cash for an evening out, I'll gravitate toward those that offer a down-sized (and lower priced) sampling of their menus at mid-day.

Always wanted to go to Nostrana but can't scrounge enough out of the sofa cushions for dinner? Or heard about the fabulous shoestring fries at Café Castagna but the full meal deal is out of range? Try lunch at either. Seriously. You'll spend a fraction of what dinner would cost and get a good idea of what the kitchen is capable of. Plus who orders a whole bottle of wine with lunch, much less a cocktail? Again, savings in the bank.

If there's one spot in Portland that has garnered endless gibbering in the local press since it opened, it's Andy Ricker's love song to Thai street food, Pok Pok. And lunch is the ticket here as well. Same fascinating food, somewhat lower prices, and you're not obligated to try everything on the menu.

I went with a friend the other day and ordered the Tam Kai Yaang (top photo), a mellifluous-sounding and flavor-packed melange of roasted game hen with long beans, tomatoes, peanuts, Chinese celery, cilantro, Thai chiles, garlic, lime, palm sugar and fish sauce for $9.50. And the Yam Makheua Yao (left), another salad that featured smoky grilled Chinese eggplant with fried dry shrimp and garlic, chopped boiled egg, Thai chiles, shallots, cilantro and a lime-fish sauce dressing, priced at $9. Smashing.

Now, you might well ask, "Two salads with similar ingredients?" and you would not be out of line. But in this kitchen, the sum of the parts do not mean the same tastes emerge in the final preparation.

A side of sticky rice and our lunch was still light. In more ways than one.

Details: Pok Pok, 3226 SE Division. Phone 503-232-1387.


ABC said...

You are so right. Those of us who have been poor college students for longer than we care to remember (heh) have been following the lunch idea for some time now. It's extremely good advice for those who cannot give up their foodie habits but can't afford dinners out much anymore.

Giovanna said...

And in this heat, I'd rather eat my bigger meal in the middle of the day anyway. Pok Pok is on my lunch list for this week.

dds said...

Good reminder and I've been meaning to try Pok Pok again. It's the wine and cocktails that kill these days, and lunch is a perfect way around that desire. (Next time you want dinner at Nostrana, which can be done fairly cheaply if one tries...but where's the fun in that...come by the house for a Manhattan. We'll save you $17!:)

Kathleen Bauer said...

I'm in that boat with you, my friend. Here's to creative problem solving!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Giovanna, I always say that, but then end up eating a big dinner anyway. Rats!

And dds, I'll come to your house for drinks any time, but it's our turn next!