Nothing, not bribes, begs, or primal screams, is getting you into Langbaan anytime soon. The Thai tasting-menu adventure on SE 28th (Portland Monthly’s Restaurant of the Year 2014 and Cuisine of the Year 2015) is still riding a hot streak. Right now, it’s booked until next May.
But think cup half-full. Langbaan owner and Bangkok native Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom hears your pain. As Eat Beat has learned, a new menu of little-known Southern Thai eats is on the way. Get ready for braised oxtail soup, charcoal-zapped, head-on shrimp, curries cradling Dungeness crab, and relish trays holding salted duck eggs, Thai-style jerky and smoked trout.
Far from Langbaan’s reservation-only policy and prix fixe prices, Ninsom’s next project, Hat Yai (1605 N.E. Killingsworth St.), will rage morning till night, seven days a week, with a la carte Southern Thai eats, counter service (is there any other kind these days in Portland?) and 38 seats. And though he’s best known as a bar man around town, partner Alan Akwai will run the front of the house. Drinks will match the food, he says, “Thai in style, simple and fun, lots of cold beer, iced coffee, a few cocktails.” Hat Yai hopes to open by the end of the year.
For the kitchen, Ninsom has tapped a team of Thai chefs: 32-year-old Taweesak Teesompong, wrapping up a three-year stint at Thailand’s famed Nahm; Amporn Khayanha, who headed up the now-defunct Typhoon downtown, and Hat Yai native Duangduean Tattaruji.
Ninsom could have focused on any Thai region (Langbaan features a different area each month), but Southern Thailand—the food of his grandfather—just speaks to him. “The food will focus on dishes from the middle part of Southern Thailand, what the locals are eating,” says Ninsom. “It’s roti with curry and fried chicken, or coconut rice with curry and papaya salad and fried egg.” Ninsom is drawing inspiration from a recent, two-week immersion in Southern Thailand, along with childhood memories from his father’s hometown.
Hat Yai’s famous fried chicken will be a centerpiece: a unique blend of herbs and spices, and more fragrant than American-style fried chicken. Also expect a handful of seasonally changing curries and stir-fries, plus charcoal grilled skewers, like mussels and short ribs. Me? I’m looking forward to the simple pleasures of curry broth, three options to start, to be slurped Southern Thai style, with savory roti pancakes for dipping.