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Pom's a welcome addition to the busy Thai landscape


Source: Entertainment Weekly


Maine Sunday Telegram 3/23/08

Opened last December, Pom's Thai Taste Restaurant & Noodle House serves creamy curries and good noodle soups in a modern room.

Oversweet dipping sauces and a few bland dishes were the only detractions during a meal on the bustling evening of Portland's First Friday Art Walk, when I was impressed by the spicy, crispy duck and house special curry.

With her signature fine-decorating talent, owner Rattanaphorn Boobphachati ("Pom" for short) gave this business a gray ceiling and white walls, white plastic tables, hanging lights with horizontal, concentric shades, a bamboo floor and a back wall topped by a Thai dancer's headdress.

It also now holds a sushi bar, which opened after my visit.

"Whenever I add an additional location, it's because of customer requests," said Boobphachati, whose other restaurants, both in South Portland, are Thai Taste on Cottage Road and Pom's Thai on Western Avenue.

She said she had been looking for a Portland location since early 2007. The one she found had been a printing shop for 25 years.

"I'm very confident, and I like competition," she said about starting a business in a city with 11 other Thai restaurants. "I like every Thai restaurant to give value back to the customer, with a nice presentation, and good personalities. You have to be open to improve and listen to customer feedback."

Immediate responses to customer feedback include a smaller version of the menu (described below) for repeat customers. Her tables are too small, she said, but this summer she plans to get larger ones. By next winter, a double door will be installed to keep the cold air farther away from customers.

The dipping sauces seemed sweeter than what I recall at the other restaurants. But choices without sugar make the menu friendly to anyone who can navigate an unwieldy photo-album menu with more than 30 pages, each one holding two photographs of meals on its two sides.

You can ask the whirling servers for unsweetened dipping sauce too; they never seem to miss a beat. I know that you can eat here in a hurry, having enjoyed a swift noodle lunch with the perfect assistance of one server who got us out just when I'd asked, after enjoying bean thread noodle ($7.95) with shrimp in vegetable broth with peanut.

At lunch, choosing your type of noodle, type of broth and accompaniments may take longer than the order.

Chive dumplings ($5.95) were the least engaging of four dinner appetizers, both fried and steamed, although the fried version had the advantage of crispness over the thick, gluey wrapper of the steamed.

The fresh spring roll ($5.95) was simplicity itself, tightly packed shredded vegetables inside a thin rice wrapper. But its dipping sauce seemed like sugar syrup under a coating of chopped peanut.

Pork dumplings ($5.95) in thick wrappers held an oddly flavored filling, which led us to ask if they had any seafood inside. No, the server said. I cannot be sure what it was, but something sweet had altered the taste of the meat.

Tom Yum Soup with shrimp ($4.25) held broth that could have used more flavor, but the shrimp and other vegetables, including mushroom, were fresh and good.

A glass of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc ($5) from the small selection of wine and beer consorted nicely with the curries of the main course. Thai hot tea ($1.95) wafted a smoky scent from its roasted tea leaves, and creamy Thai iced tea ($2.25) held a similar signature, pleasant bitterness.

A wide, shallow white china bowl held my House Special Curry ($14.95), something "like a red curry," according to one server. Its shrimp was beautifully fresh, as were the tender scallops. Tender-crunchy pea pods. spinach, thin-sliced carrot and red pepper were perfect in the creamy, lightly spicy coconut milk sauce.

But best at the table was the spicy crispy duck ($15.95), with browned duck skin and rich fat keeping the meat moist and savory. Mushrooms, onions, and red and green peppers were also perfectly flavored by the garlic and chili sauce.

Pad See-Ew ($6.95) held wide noodles in a rather plain brown sauce. In a yellow curry ($9.95) with potato, sweetness came in bites of hot pineapple, but the fried tofu in it was tough.

We went overboard ordering desserts, so be forewarned; any one of them is enough for a table of four, each plate embellished with whipped cream, maraschino cherry and a little umbrella.

The best I tasted was the pumpkin custard ($5.95), a tender egg custard that is not too sweet and even slightly salty.

Thai rice pudding ($6.95), served in six small saucers, is smooth, silky rice custard; this version was slightly grainy and quite large.

Fried banana ($4.95), encased in a crunchy wrapper, combined a slightly salty crunch with the sweetness of drizzled honey. Sticky rice with sliced mango ($6.95) was a hit for the others at the table, the sticky rice not too sweet and wonderfully chewy, and the sweet-sour fruit perfectly fresh.