Good things comes to those who wait—especially those waiting for dairy-free Thai iced tea. Nearly two years after VegeThai shuttered on Hawthorne, Southeast Portland once again has an entirely vegetarian, largely vegan Thai restaurant.
Opened three days before the New Year, KaTi Portland—named for the Thai word for “coconut milk” and sometimes styled @KaTi—is a collaboration between Seattle chef Ketsuda Nan Chaison and Sarah Jansala, a pharmacist whose family previously owned a vegetarian eatery in Thailand. Jansala’s mother, who has worked in restaurants for 30 years, now serves as KaTi’s executive chef.
Located (somewhat ironically) in the former Clay’s Smokehouse building on SE 29th and Division, KaTi is lined with large windows perfect for people-watching and soaking up any available sunshine. A bar in the back corner offers craft cocktails spiked with Thai flavors: the Spicy Tipsy, for example, features vodka infused with tom yum herbs. Additional bar seating faces directly into KaTi’s open kitchen, allowing curious eaters to watch their pad see ew and papaya salad being made.
An extensive menu offers traditional staples like tom kha soup, coconut curries, spicy noodles, and pineapple fried rice, all served with tofu rather than the processed soy meats found in veg-Asian spots like Loving Hut or the now-defunct VegeThai. All dishes are made without the fish sauce and shrimp paste ubiquitous in Thai cuisine, and egg can be easily omitted from any menu item.
When asked about KaTi’s signature dishes, Jansala names the nam kao tod (a crispy rice appetizer served with lettuce wraps) and pla rhad prik (deep-fried tofu wrapped in seaweed), before pointing to the wall, where an enormous illuminated sign spells out “Pad Thai.”
“Maybe 90 percent [of our customers] are vegan,” she adds. “Every single table orders pad Thai, and they ask for no egg. That’s how I figured it out.”
Non-vegans can find plenty to enjoy at KaTi, as well. Sure, Pok Pok may be a few short blocks away, but there’s something to be said for a multigenerational family cooking the same classic recipes that they once served in their country of origin. And if nothing else, there’s no line out the door here—yet.
2932 SE Division St
11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday