Food News

Restaurants from Portland, Maine, Are Popping Up on This Coast

Eem and Magna Kusina will host two prominent restaurants from our namesake, the other Portland, later this month.

By Matthew Trueherz January 12, 2023

A smiling man and woman sitting in front of Mr.  Tuna mobile sushi bar

Mr. Tuna’s Portland, Maine, sushi food cart

Portland is coming to Portland. 

Though we are named after an older city across the country in Maine, Portland, Oregon, snags more headlines as a foodie destination. But two prominent restaurants from Portland, Maine—Mr. Tuna, which has three sushi food carts and a brick-and-mortar in the works, and Crispy Gai, a Thai street food and cocktail hot spot—are looking to put the East Coast city on the national food map.  

Naturally, they’re coming to the Rose City to do just that.  

This summer, Jordan Rubin (who owns and runs Mr. Tuna, and is a partner in Crispy Gai) and Cyle Reynolds, Crispy Gai’s chef/co-owner, ran into a few of PDX’s favorite chefs in Texas. Carlo Lamagna (chef and owner of Magna Kusina) and Colin Yoshimoto (chef at Eem) met Rubin and Reynolds at Hot Luck, the Austin barbecue festival organized in part by Mike Thelin of the now-shuttered Feast Portland.   

Soon after, Yoshimoto and Lamagna invited their new New England friends out west. What we lack in lobster wharves, we make up for in foodies—or that's what we’re imagining they lured them with. 

The result is an East-meets-West, Portland x Portland series of pop-ups coming later this month. This is what bicoastal elite means, yeah?  

Magna Kusina will host Mr. Tuna for a Japanese-meets-Filipino tasting menu on Sunday, January 22. The plan is for the two chefs to play off of both East and West Coast seafood dishes through the lens of their respective cuisines. We’ve heard mention of grilled East Coast razor claims, a mashup of toro (fatty tuna belly) and the Filipino minced pork dish sisig, and kinilaw, the vinegar-spiked Filipino take on ceviche, made with Maine scallops and uni. Reservations are available through Tock. 

A spread of Crispy Gai's Thai dishes

Image: Nicole Wolf

Eem will host Crispy Gai on Tuesday, January 24. Collaboratively made à la carte Thai dishes will be folded into Eem’s always-bustling, walk-in only evening service. Since the two are already on the same page, serving Thai-spicy dishes and refreshing cocktails to bring you back down to earth, there’s a bit more synergy than fusion to their plan.  

Three takes on fried chicken wings are promised—red curry and lime leaf, Hat Yai–style with fried shallots, and a tingly Sichuan-inspired take—as well as a very Eem play on the classic Thai yellow curry noodle soup, khao soi, that works in brisket.  

Mr. Tuna and Crispy Gai aren’t quite ready to open Pacific Coast outposts just yet. Instead, they’ve been traveling and popping up around the country to spread the word and collaborate with some of their favorite chefs. Recently they hosted several fine-dining chefs-turned-sandwich-superstars: Turkey and the Wolf from New Orleans and Big Kids from Chicago, as well as Her Place Supper Club, the Philly restaurant that sat next to Kann and Okta on Esquire's Best New Restaurants 2022 list 

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