Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wild Tiger Burning Bright

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eyeDare frame thy larb or mee grati?
(with apologies to Wm. Blake)

It was not so long ago that Portland's Hollywood neighborhood was a sad collection of hollow-eyed storefronts on NE Sandy Boulevard, and the best you could hope for in terms of food was the iceberg lettuce and bay shrimp salad at Pal's Shanty.

It's still no Pearl or Alberta Arts district, but the choices in dining have increased exponentially with the number of condos and townhomes popping up in former vacant lots. And no doubt the onslaught of retail outlets won't be far behind now that Whole Foods has launched their mother ship smack dab in the middle, with the nearly-new (and thankfully expanded) Trader Joe's just a couple of blocks away.

Along with Laurelwood's two brewpubs flanking each end of that stretch of Sandy, there is great Japanese to be had at Hama Sushi, authentic French bread and pastries at Fleur de Lis Bakery and, the newest star on Hollywood's sidewalk, Laotian cuisine at Wild Tiger.

A second outpost of the Wild Tiger in Vancouver, Washington, it offers a combination of Thai and Laotian dishes and is a cut above the fair-to-middling atmo and quality at most Southeast Asian places in town. And I've been scouring the city for a place that has decent Laotian cuisine since the amazing feast I had while researching a story on a new Hmong cookbook.

While (sadly) nowhere near the quality of that meal, my friend Denise and I were happy with their larb (top photo), a salad of ground meat, galangal and green onion that is the national dish of Laos. I'd originally had it with sides of Asian greens, lime and sliced vegetables that were meant to be wrapped up in lettuce leaves, but the Wild Tiger version was apparently supposed to be chopped up together and sprinkled with squeezed lime. The pork was quite good and had the right flavor, but a wrapped version and more greens would have been more fun.

We also shared the Mee Grati (left), a noodle dish sauced with a bright coconut milk curry showered with crushed peanuts. All it took was a sprinkling of lime and we were halfway to Vientiane. We also had the Sleeping Prawns (above right) starter to tide us over till the mains got there, a plate of five large tail-on shrimp with a lightly deep-fried (and elegantly folded) wrapper. The shrimp itself practically exploded with juice and almost didn't need the sweet chile dipping sauce that came with it.

So if you're in the neighborhood and getting a bit peckish, or you're in the mood for a chilled mug of light Beerlao with the Tiger on the cap (right), consider stopping in at this cheery spot.

Details: Wild Tiger, 4160 NE Sandy Blvd. Phone 503-282-2429.


Kat said...

Good to see my neighborhood get some press! I live in the middle of Whole Foods and TJs, and we've got some nice options. I'd say check out Moon&Sixpence, too. They have awesome British pub food (best fish and chips around), an array of delicious brews, and it's just an overall great and toasty spot to duck into on a chilly night.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks for mentioning the Moon…I need to get up there now that it's non-smoking. And I've heard they pull one of the best pints of Guinness in town, too!