Playful Southeast Asian Pop-Up Gado Gado Finds a Brick-and-Mortar Home
For the past year, Gado Gado has been our hands-down favorite Portland pop-up. (Read all about it in Portland Monthly’s upcoming February issue). Chef Thomas Pisha-Duffly and his wife Mariah, Gado Gado’s front woman and music commander, have squatted at eateries around town, Langbaan to Expatriate to Guilder Café, test-driving their personal cuisine: noodle-centric, roaming Southeast Asian, and seasoned with fun.
Now, Eat Beat has learned, the couple—recent transplants from Maine—just inked a four-year lease at 1801 NE Cesar Chavez Blvd (formerly My Canh restaurant). The plan is to open for dinner and brunch in April, with roughly 60 seats and a horseshoe-shaped bar in the center of the room, and a strong focus on zero-proof drinks. Toby Roberts, president of the Pok Pok Restaurant empire, is teaming up with the couple to handle the nuts and bolts (who knew Pok Pok had a president?).
The menu will be an eclectic mix of “our style,” as they put it. Expect an unorthodox take on handmade noodles, snacks, rotating salads, curries, whole grilled fish, smoked duck, and house charcuterie. “I’m not as good as a full-time butcher,” says Thomas, “but I can take a pig from pork to chops.” Influences includes Thomas’s family recipes (his half-Chinese mother grew up in Indonesia), Italian techniques and butcher skills gleaned under Boston legend Barbara Lynch, and chef duties at Honey Paw, a New York Times-approved “nondenominational noodle bar" in Portland, Maine.
The idea is to mix it up, staying true to the name Gado Gado, which translates roughly as “mix mix.” Brunch will be “strongly Asian,” including a house take on dim sum. The aesthetics will be what Mariah calls “energetic and bright, whimsical but modern, but definitely not quiet or precious.”
Watch for my Gado Gado piece in the February issue of Portland Monthly, online and on newsstands soon. In the meantime, you can still sample Gado Gado’s wares every Thursday at Sammich, beginning at 9 p.m. The current pop-up menu includes few noodle dishes, hip hop music, and an energetic crowd. Check Gado Gado’s website for more details.