Thursday, May 7, 2015

Portland Pop-Up: Langbaan

What: Langbaan
Where: 6 SE 28th Ave (backroom of PaaDee)
When: Two seatings per night Thursday-Sunday
Honeys Heart: Everything

Back in February of last year, chef Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom started serving tasting menu dinners based on 100-year-old royal Thai recipes in the back room of PaaDee, a Thai restaurant he co-founded in 2011. Ninsom was born and raised in Bangkok, is professionally trained in Thai cooking, and his family owns Thai Cottage in St. Johns, so he knows just a bit about making Thai food- but I doubt that even he expected Langbaan to take off quite like it has.

Thai for "back of the house," Langbaan was the first restaurant to receive 4 stars under the Oregonian's new rating system, it was named as one of GQ's Best Restaurants in America for 2015, and it was a semifinalist for the 2015 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Oh yeah, and if you want to book a reservation, you better hop on over to their website ASAP because the first available seating is months and months from now.


Lucky for me, Doug is on top of it and booked reservations for an April dinner back in January. After all the press that Langbaan has received and having eaten some very good food in Thailand fairly recently, we went into our dinner with high expectations. I'm happy to report that those expectations were more than met.

Langbaan offers two seatings per night Thursday through Sunday. We were booked for the 8:30pm seating on a Friday and had to wait about 20 minutes for the 6:00pm seating to clear out before we were escorted through the hidden bookcase door (obvs, love that detail) from PaaDee into Langbaan.

Langbaan's fixed tasting menu is $65 per person with an optional $30 wine pairing. We were more than happy with our Chang beers, so no wine pairing for us. The menu changes monthly and our April menu was inspired by the Minburi district, a Muslim neighborhood in Bangkok.

Our meal kicked off with three snacks: Miang som-O made with shrimp, pomelo (a citrus), shallots, chili, lime, ginger in roasted coconut sauce, and a betel leaf; Kanom Krok, a crispy rice cup filled with a scallop and coconut cream with galangal (part of the ginger family); and Mataba Puu, a Dungeness crab Thai-Muslim style pancake with cucumber relish.




As soon as we took our first bite of the shrimp, it was like we were instantly transported back to Thailand. The flavors were so bright and perfectly paired. Langbaan's chefs have definitely nailed the Thai balancing act of layering spicy heat with refreshing herbs and cooling coconut.

I also loved how the traditional Thai flavors and ingredients being used were re-imagined in less traditional ways, specifically with the scallop rice cup. It tasted just like Thailand but in a new, exciting package.

Following the snack plates was Soup Hang Wuar, an oxtail soup with purple potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, onions, shallots, celery, and wagyu beef. Delicious!


Next up was the salad course which started with Yum Ped Yang Mamuang made with Peking duck, ripe mango, spring broccoli, easter radish, mint, heirloom tomato, Thai basil, and fava leaf. I'm not always a fan of duck, but this salad was so refreshing that I didn't mind it at all.


Our second salad was Yum Plaa Tod Kamin Rom Kwan with smoked turmeric halibut, asparagus, star fruit, verpa morel, blood orange, and kaffir lime leaf.


This was one of my favorite plates of the night. The smokey, savory halibut was amazing with the bright starfruit and blood orange. So pretty and so good!

The four main course plates were served all at once. We had Og Gai Ob Chan Aoi, a roasted chicken breast Gai Yang Hah Daw-style with green chili dipping sauce; Gang Gae, a lamb curry with morel, potatoes, onions, shallots, and sunchoke chips; Nahm Prik Hed, a chili relish of oyster mushrooms with fresh greens; and Khao Mok, Thai-Muslim curry rice.


The chicken was moist and delicious and the lamb curry, rich and homey. Those oyster mushrooms though... Those took me back to a larb that Doug ordered in Bangkok that we tried our best to eat, but it was just too darn hot. Langbaan provided plenty of herbs to offset the heat those mushrooms were giving off but we just couldn't do it. But hey, that dish was true to our experience in Thailand too so I guess we can't really complain!

Even though we were bordering on stuffed by this point in the meal, my sweet-loving self was happy to see two desserts on the menu. The first was Duck Egg Coconut Ice Cream with rhubarb, sweet potato, coconut, corn, peanuts, and strawberries. A strange combination of ingredients for sure, but very tasty nonetheless.


But that dessert didn't hold a candle to what turned out to be my very favorite dish of the night, the Kanom Tua Islam, a mung bean dumpling with coconut cream. 


Doesn't look like much, but trust me, it was amazing. Weird, but amazing. The mung bean dumpling was warm and savory so when you took a bite of the hot dumpling with the cool, sweet coconut cream, there was a crazy collision of temperatures and flavors. It was very unexpected but so satisfying. And the perfect end to our meal.

Admittedly, $65 per person is quite the hefty price tag for dinner for our crowd, but in this case, we thought it was well worth it. Dinner at Langbaan will definitely be a once-a-year treat for us- but with the waitlist how it's looking, we probably couldn't make it there more frequently even if we wanted to!

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