Sunshine Noodles, Diane Lam’s Contemporary Cambodian Restaurant, Will Close December 18
Sunshine Noodles, true to its name, aimed to be a ray of light when it opened during summer 2020 as a pop-up on the patio of Psychic Bar, serving contemporary takes on Cambodian dishes including lime-pepper chicken wings, Phnom Penh noodle soup, and chile relleno banh xeo. After the pop-up’s temporary residency ended, Lam launched a short-lived late-night chicken-wing pop-up, Prey & Tell, before relaunching Sunshine Noodles in a brick-and-mortar space in Slabtown in December 2021. In late May of 2022, she also helped launch French bistro Alouette, though she’s since stepped away from that project. Now, almost exactly a year after it opened, Sunshine Noodles is gearing up for its last service on December 18.
“This was a tough decision to make, as I have learned from and grown so much from this experience. When I started Sunshine Noodles, I was passionate about bringing Cambodian cuisine to the Portland community. After over a year, I feel that we earned a place in your heart and I thank you for being our supporters,” Lam wrote in an Instagram post on December 9.
Sunshine Noodles’ opening was particularly significant in Portland, where there are few other Cambodian restaurants. And Lam says some of the most meaningful feedback she’s gotten has been from fellow Cambodians. “I grew up knowing no Cambodians, and now I know so many across the nation,” she says. “We’re all just trying to gain back our past, our heritage. My generation especially grew up raised by parents who went through the war as children and young adults. So we’re direct descendants of this war-torn history, and it’s been really nice to be able to inspire other Cambodians and be able to showcase the food.”
Though Sunshine Noodles also faced the same challenges that others in the industry are dealing with right now—staffing shortages, high cost of ingredients—Lam says those weren’t the primary reasons for the closure. Instead, Lam cites her plans to move to San Francisco and work as a line cook, immersing herself in a different city’s restaurant scene and focusing on the cooking side of things rather than business ownership.
“I would love to be able to regroup and figure out what’s important with my food and what story I’m telling next,” Lam told Portland Monthly. “Not that restaurant work isn’t challenging—but as an artist, it’s completely different. I still have this sensory connection toward my food, and I want to be able to hone those skills a bit more.”
Lam says the move to San Francisco won’t be permanent, though—she’s lived here since 2016 and considers Portland her home. “Portland made me,” says Lam. “I really just want to be better and approach Portland in the future with a little bit more to offer.”