A Fusion of Food and History on Trendy Alberta
Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 8:40PM
off the vine

By: Valerie Brockbank  After being disappointed at not getting into Beast, for dinner last saturday – what was I thinking - we dallied through North East Portland hoping our saturday search in one of Portland’s “it” neighborhoods would turn up a winner. As we drove up and down the blocks looking for a parking place, Mount Hood’s snow-capped peak bobbed on the horizon.

Once we found a place to park, we set out on our hunt for an acceptable place to eat in the neighborhood. We found a interesting mix of fusion at The Siam Society on Alberta Street; mostly Thai, with a little French and a little Indian - housed in a one hundred year-old historic power sub-station. The building alone, is worth a visit; the amazingly high ceiling, slit windows and remnants of machinery cast a diffused sepia-tones light across the wooden and cracked concrete floors.

The Siam Society is known for it’s imaginative drinks and happy hour, but we wanted something more substantial. I started with one of their muddled drink specials, a Hibiscus Mojito with rum, organic mint, hibiscus-flavored tea, lime juice and splash of soda. What could be better on a sunny Portland day than a pink drink to sip on!

For dinner we decided on a big pot of “Thom Kha”, coconut milk simmered with Kafir lime, lemon grass, onions and mushrooms. Not quite traditional; but it had a clean, comforting layering of sweet, salty, savory and acidic. I think I may replace chicken soup with this version on Thom Kha, the next time I’m under the weather. The two main dishes we ordered were the pan-seared scallops sauteed in Brazilian red palm or “aziete de dende” oil, coconut milk, garlic limes and red peppers; and Carlton Farms roasted pork, which was brined first and then roasted in banana leaves. The fish and meat stood out as fresh, expressive focal points to the spices. The scallops were crisp on the outside and rare on the inside, the pork was soft and silky.

The wine I picked to go with both dishes was a Grüner Veltliner, Velt. 1, 2007 from Austria, which retails for about $13 a bottle. This wine is drunk young and has a loyal following in Vienna clubs. Grüner Veltliner, grown in the clay soils of North East Austria, can age well and often takes on some of the best French Chardonnays in blind tastings. The Velt. 1 has grassy flavors with a hint of spiciness that goes well with the scallops, and and silky tropical finish was a good match for the roasted pork.

The Siam Society also has vegan, vegetarian and wheat-free menus on request. If you are just in the mood for drinks and a small bite to eat, the Soi Cowboy Lounge is located above the restaurant, or now that the weather is warming up plan to dine al fresco on their secluded patio.

An evening out that was elegant and relaxed; stepping forward into fusion and backward a century into local history. A rare find.

OTV Rating (0 to 20)

Food: 17
Vibe: 18

siam society bistro & bar
2703 NE Alberta
Portland, OR

Article originally appeared on off the vine magazine (http://offthevinemagazine.com/).
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