Saturday, September 10, 2011


Lemongrass is a Thai restaurant located on NE Couch St. in Portland, Oregon.

I arrived around 11:30 a.m. on a Friday, seemingly well ahead of the lunch rush. The hours posted near the entrance said they wouldn't open till noon, but all of a sudden, chef/owner Shelley Siripatrapa opened the door saying "We're open!" So hey, I was their first customer that day.

Only later did I find out that Lemongrass really does open for lunch (Tuesdays through Fridays)  from11:30 a.m. to about 2 p.m. (the posted hours are outdated). Lemongrass also opens for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays (closed Sunday and Monday).

Lemongrass has 10 levels of spice, and their "medium" is actually somewhere around level 2. I ordered the chicken curry, level 2 spice ($12.50). I also received various forms of red Thai chiles on the side: a minced fresh variety, a minced toasted form, and chiles fried in oil (basically a smoky chili oil by that point).

Chicken curry (level 2 spice)
Closeup of the chicken curry (level 2 spice)
Fresh minced red Thai chiles
Toasted red Thai chiles (left) and red Thai chiles in oil (right)
Shelley told me that red Thai chiles are very rare to find and only in season for a few months out of the year. Every time I go to the market, I only see the green Thai chiles, so I know how difficult it can be to locate these coveted peppers. Lemongrass goes to great lengths to get their red Thai chiles, and they buy them in bulk so they can feed hungry customers year-round.

The chicken curry was delicious, one of the best Thai curries I've ever had. A generous portion of juicy, sliced chicken stewed in an amazing curry sauce, comprised of ingredients such as cumin, chili oil, and coconut milk. The cooked diced potatoes melted in my mouth, while the silky onions and tomatoes provided more flavor depth.

I was pleasantly surprised that their level 2 spice packed some punch but retained such incredible flavor. I'd say their level 2 was about a 7 on my 1-10 spicy scale. I could probably go up to level 5 without sacrificing taste, but will likely pass on getting level 10 -- not because it may be too spicy, but because I learned my lesson from Baan-Thai Restaurant: people also eat with their eyes.

Amazing service, and I absolutely love the decor. At Lemongrass, it feels like you're going home for a lovely Thai meal. Shelley was a pleasure to talk with and made me feel so welcome. This is really a hidden gem in NE Portland, if only because it's not on a main road. It's near the Green Castle food pod, so if you love spicy Thai food, do yourself a favor and check Lemongrass out! 9.25/10

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