Eat This Now

Review: Weekend Lunch at Oma’s Hideaway Delivers a Pretty Genius Filet-O-Fishball Sandwich

Yes, you want the salted egg curry fries at Portland's best new lunch destination on SE Division.

By Karen Brooks February 3, 2023

The Filet-O-Fishball sandwich

Since 2021, Oma's Hideaway has buzz-sawed food and fun into its own definition of a restaurant. The dinner menu, now pandemic-small, freely mixes tradition and play, Malaysian Chinese barbecue and stoner food, all intricately seasoned. For a night of surprise and delight, Oma's is a must-know.

Now comes the next chapter: lunch, Oma's-style, weekends only for now. Two months in, it's already a destination, with a few nighttime signatures in the mix. Prices run $8–26. Options include real-deal wonton mee noodles illuminated by house char siu pork, an elaborate Jell-O shot sprinkled with edible glitter, and a kind of genius, Singapore-meets-McDonald's Filet-O-Fishball sandwich to jar us out of our fast-food rut. Just saying the words “Filet-O-Fishball” out loud can make you grin.

The Oma-Zing cheeseburger

Heads up: Oma's killer cheeseburger is also available at lunch. In my 2021 Oma's Hideaway review, I called the kitchen's self-styled Oma-Zing burger one of the city's best: juicy charred patty, oozy American cheese, shred-uce, sweet-hot chile jam, and a beautiful milk bun, made by An Xuyen Bakery, with just the right sink-your-teeth-in squish and griddle char. It vanished from the dinner menu months ago; now, it rides again at lunch and dinner. The current version is slightly retweaked with the addition of salted egg mayo. (Alas, the coconut lime-leaf butter on the bun is no more.)

Salted egg yolk curry fries with sambal ketchup

Image: Karen Brooks

Salted egg yolks—prized for their rich, buttery quality—are a current obsession of owners Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly, who draw inspiration from family Peranakan traditions and travel. The yolks star in one of Oma's crowning achievements: salted egg yolk curry fries. Think slender, golden fries drizzled with a head rush of salted egg yolk sauce, fried curry leaves, and a heap of pickled serranos. On top: a dust of house curry salt. On the side: sambal ketchup. If dirty fries can be enlightened, this is it.

“Salted egg yolks are having a moment in Southeast Asia,” says Thomas, a James Beard Northwest Best Chef 2023 semifinalist for his work at the couple's esteemed Gado Gado over in Northeast Portland. “They're in everything.” Why not on top of Oma's fries? To make the sauce, he sautés the yolks in brown butter, garlic, and “a ton of curry leaves,” then whirs them in evaporated milk, cooked down until thick as cream, all of it folded with house mayo. I didn't say this dish would be good for you; only delicious.

Most impressively, a genuine curry flavor comes through. As my Chinese American friend Drew puts it: “He plays in that fun, fuck-around world but has the level of knowledge it takes to pull it off.”

The famed house roti also surfaces at lunch—buttery, flaky, rip-apart Malaysian flatbread sided by a dipping curry of the moment. Vegans can get their own roti—alone or as the foundation of the creative vegan roti wrap, served open-face with falafel-esque green pea and mint fritters, cumin beet raita, and pickled raisins.

As lunch evolves, we might see expanded roti sandwiches and perhaps even a spin-off concept. Already, Thomas has R&Ded versions with duck sausage or roast pork. Drinks include a full bar, cocktails, and Coava instant coffee. My fave so far: Golden Hour, a lush, umbrella-topped zero-proofer that blends pulpy fresh carrot juice, coconut milk, pineapple, and bumbu bali (Balinese spice paste), all brought to a thick, creamy head on top.

The Pisha-Dufflys hope to add more lunch days by summer and perhaps some brunch dishes. A staff trip to Bali in March, plus the couple’s recent trip to Singapore, will surely spur new ideas.

But nothing happens fast in Thomas's brain. The Filet-O-Fishball sandwich—which subs a fishball patty for McDonald's wild-caught pollock—was a year in the making. He admires the chain's simple formula: square-shaped fried fish, tartar sauce, melty American cheese, soft bun. “It took me years to understand eating seafood at McDonald's,” he said. “The idea was disgusting. A friend said, 'Dude, just try the fish filet.' I ate it while driving out the exit, then turned right around to get another one. There's a lot of reasons to hate fast food. But they are masters of their craft, delivering deliciousness to the masses.”

Oma's contribution? The house fishball paste is spread out, cut into a square, then breaded and fried in a coat of crispy panko crumbs blitzed with a little coriander and chiles. The tartar sauce includes chopped up house pickles and Sichuan chile crisp; the milk bun is toasted to a T. “It's a pain in the ass,” Thomas says, “but worth it. If I can make a good pun work, it always tastes delicious.” 3131 SE Division St,, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat–Sun, walk-ins and lunch reservations accepted