Oma’s Takeaway, the immensely popular psychedelia-infused pop-up-turned-restaurant from the folks who brought you Gado Gado, is getting yet another fresh face. The restaurant has been on hiatus since January, but in mid-April, owners Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly plan to reopen Oma’s Takeaway as Oma’s Hideaway. The restaurant, which opened last fall in the former Whiskey Soda Lounge space, will get a total makeover with a vibe that’s in the same vein, yet clearly distinct from its sister restaurant: a night market-inspired space serving Malaysian-Chinese street food meets New England fare, with a live cooking station as the focal point where customers can watch things like rotis being smashed, noodles being pulled by hand, and lacquered barbecued meats like char siu dazzlingly displayed.
The Pisha-Dufflys started Oma’s Takeaway as a scrappy pop-up in 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. They named it after Thomas’s grandmother, whom he called Oma and who inspired many of his recipes and who passed away from coronavirus last year. The pop-up consisted of a tent in the Gado Gado parking lot adorned with a disco ball and candles, pumping out danceable music and adding personality and funk to the takeout experience. Dishes like seafood rangoon with salmon roe-chile mayo dipping sauce and beef rendang were served alongside self-described “stoner food,” like smoked brisket on a coconut-herb butter-slathered bun with tots. It was one of the takeout treasures of the summer, PoMo critic Karen Brooks wrote. When Andy Ricker’s Whiskey Soda Lounge—a Portland Monthly favorite back when it opened in 2007 on Division—closed permanently over the summer, the Pisha-Dufflys decided to take the leap and transform Oma’s Takeaway into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The restaurant quickly became a Portland Monthly pick for Best Restaurants in fall 2020. Popular both for takeout and for meals on its covered outdoor patio, Oma's Takeaway specialized in the much-loved Malaysian national dish: nasi lemak, coconut-clove rice with accoutrements like peanuts, candied anchovies, and a fried egg.
Oma’s Takeaway went on hiatus in late January due to a private emergency, but the Pisha-Dufflys decided to use this break as an opportunity to transform Oma’s into the restaurant they wanted it to become. When they first moved into the Whiskey Soda Lounge space, the couple didn’t have the time or money to renovate a space that likely wouldn’t see any customers dining indoors for a while. Now, with an established customer base and the possibility of safer indoor dining on the horizon, they’re ready to make changes, all under the new name of Oma’s Hideaway.
“The interior of a restaurant also has a really large effect on the staff,” Mariah says. “We want that space to be a reflection of what we’re doing there and not what was there before.”
Those who have dined in at Gado Gado might remember the colorful wallpaper designed by Portland artist Kate Blairstone. The bright, tile-inspired wallpaper there takes cues from Peranakan culture, the ethnic group that Thomas’s family belongs to. “They’re folks that are Chinese but immigrated throughout the straits of Malacca, and a lot of them ended up in Indonesia and Thailand and Singapore,” Mariah explains. The tile-like motifs feature ingredients that are prominent in Thomas’s cooking—crab, shrimp, and tropical fruits alongside the birds that eat them. Blairstone also created the portrait of Oma that serves as the face of the restaurant. She’ll be bringing that same eye for design to Oma’s Hideaway, complete with custom wallpaper and lots of little nooks and crannies throughout the restaurant to lend the space a night market feel. Along with the live cooking area, the space will also get a redesigned bar, and a revamped patio with private tables enclosed in A-frames to retain heat and protect diners from the elements.
The menu isn’t set in stone yet, but look out for dishes that lean a little more Malaysian and a little less Indonesian than Gado Gado. There’ll also be more street food-inspired dishes, and handmade noodles are likely. One possible reprise from the Oma’s Takeaway menu: a clam chowder laksa. “Laksa's this dish that you see a lot of countries in Southeast Asia that sort of lends itself really well to being fused with clam chowder,” Pisha-Duffly explains. “Ours has potatoes and clams. But it's in this rich coconut broth with noodles and sprouts and tofu and shrimp, and it's just this perfect marriage.”
Like Gado Gado, the dishes will be true to the types of cuisines Thomas ate growing up, absorbing influences from New England as well as his Oma, who was of Chinese descent and lived in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. “Tom, he's the child of immigrants, but he grew up in New England. So a lot of what he cooks is heavily influenced by both what he ate at home, and just what he experienced as a kid.”