Sherman's Food Adventures: Rukdiew Cafe

Rukdiew Cafe

We started this Portland foodie trip with Thai food at Khao Moo Dang, so it was fitting to end it with Thai food at their sister restaurant Rukdiew Cafe.  Now they might be of the same cuisine, but the menus couldn't be anymore different.  Whereas Khao Moo Dang dishes up hawker-style food, Rukdiew offers up more typical items you'd find at a Thai dinner spot.  However, the food is far from typical as they have a variety of dishes as well as tasty cocktails.  I absolutely love the eclectic & colorful decor.

Decor aside, we were here for the food as well as some Halloween-themed cocktails (we visited in early November).  These included Dracula's Kiss, Endorphins, Blackberry Margarita and Mango Mojito. Loved the colors as well as the flavors.  There was definitely a balancing amount of sweetness in each one to offset the alcohol content.  Plenty of fruitiness too.  Check out the fake teeth on the first cocktail!

Onto the food, we started with the Crab Rangoon.  This is a classic appetizer that is not particularly Asian due to the use of cream cheese.  But honestly, I do not care if it is a North American invention because it is quite good.  For this version, the wonton wrappers were crispy with melty cream cheese in the middle mixed with imitation crab and onion.  We found chili pineapple sauce on the side that added sweetness.

Nicely-plated with lettuce, sliced cucumbers and fried vermicelli noodles, the Moo Ping (Thai Pork Skewers) were nicely charred.  Also well-marinated, these were flavorful with caramelized sweet smokiness.  The meat itself was moist and almost juicy.  This was further enhanced by the side of spicy tomato dipping sauce.  There was a spicy sweet tanginess that really went well with the smoky pork.


Onto some salads, we had the Somtum (Green Papaya Salad) as well as the Larb.  I don't really consider Larb as a "salad" since it is more of a lettuce wrap.  However, yes, it can be eaten as a salad, so it depends on how you eat it I suppose.  With a squeeze of lime, the meat mixture was fairly bright.  The onions helped in that regard.  When eaten with the lettuce, there was some fresh crunch for contrast.  As for the somtum, it was also crunchy and fresh with elements of fish sauce, spice from the chilis, tang from the lime and sweetness from palm sugar.

One of my favorite appies of the meal was the Hot Wings on a bed of fried noodles (actually loved the noodles as they soaked up all of the spicy glaze).  Now the glaze was indeed spicy, but it also was sweet with some hits of soy.  As for the wings themselves, they were cooked beautifully where the skin was rendered while the meat was still juicy and moist.  Also, check out the size of those dummettes! 

To bring it down a bit, we moved onto the Tom Kha.  Now this actually had some spice too but it was definitely balanced by the coconut milk.  As usual with this soup, the aromatics were the real draw with hits of lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal.  Hence, there was tanginess and bright citrusy finish.  With the addition of tender pieces of chicken, there was some nice body to the soup as well as texture.

From here, we moved onto the bigger plates including the Panang Beef Curry.  This was rather aromatic and full-flavored.  It was mild and creamy with the usual nuttiness from the peanuts.  I found this one to have a balancing sweetness.  The array of veggies were cooked just right as they were still vibrant with a light crunch.  As for the beef, it was really tender and not chewy like many other versions.

Trying to go for something different than the usual red and green curries, we tried the Mango Chicken Curry.  Now this was by default a red curry, but with the addition of mango, it ate a bit sweeter and was more "tropical".  This had a bit more spice, but once again, the sweetness balanced things off.  The peppers were cooked just enough while the ample amount of chicken was tender.

Also really enjoyed the Soft-Shell Crab Pad Thai, not only because of the crab, but because this was a solid version of the dish.  Exhibiting noticeable wok hei (high wok heat), the noodles were smoky and caramelized.  There was no excess moisture on the plate, yet at the same time, the noodles were not clumpy.  Lots of brininess and sweetness as well as the unmistakable tamarind tang.

Ending off our savory plates, we went out on a high with the Khao Soi.  This ever popular Northern dish featured a rich and creamy coconut curry soup that was fragrant and aromatic.  The bone-in chicken was soft and stewed to the point where it fell off that bone.  It had soaked up some of the flavors of the soup.  The egg noodles were al dente while the crispy egg noodles soaked up the sweet creamy goodness.

We ended the meal with 3 desserts including the Lava Chocolate Cake, Butterfly Pea Tapioca Pudding and Crème Brûlée Cheesecake.  Yes, these weren't exactly Thai desserts (well maybe the tapioca), but they were good nonetheless.  The lava cake was rather textbook with a rich, yet fluffy texture while the cheesecake was not heavy.  It was creamy with plenty of cheesiness.  I really enjoyed the tapioca pudding due to the sweet coconut milk and the chewy texture.  Overall, the meal was fantastic with bold flavors and well-executed proteins.  Solid Thai food in a colorful and cozy dining space.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this post*

The Good:
- Bold flavors
- Colorful and fun atmosphere
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Yes, there is free parking, but that is one tight parking lot


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