Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Monsoon Thai, or Lunch from the Laundromat

Happy Wednesday, friends! It’s time for another post about my new hometown, & this time we’ll be enjoying some culinary delights!

It was a dark & stormy night in December—as is so often the case!—& I was in my new apartment with a powerful hankering for Chinese take-out. If memory serves me, I’d just gotten off the bus into a cold drizzle some minutes before & thought that I’d noticed a whiff of Asian food in the damp air.

So I headed on a virtual search for Chinese restaurants in my area, & found that none were especially convenient by walking or bus, but that there were two Thai restaurants nearby—& I realized where that enticing aroma had originated.  Now on that particular evening, a combination of factors kept me from heading off to check this place out—the fact that my larder was not, in fact, empty; the rather miserable weather outside; & a general lack of funds. But I filed it away for future reference.

Fast forward to Monday: a lovely day here in Portland, sunny with temperatures in the 50s. Meanwhile, I was (still am) battling a ticklish throat & a bit of a cough since the evening before. Since I have great faith in the curative powers of curry, I decided this was the day to try Monsoon Thai.

Monsoon Thai is a lovely little restaurant situated on the corner of N. Mississippi Avenue & Skidmore, a mere two blocks & change from my apartment—on Monday, a most pleasant walk up tree-lined Mason & Albina.  One unique feature of the restaurant is that it shares a building with a laundromat—the laundromat faces Mississippi Avenue, while the entrance to Monsoon Thai is on Skidmore. In fact, as I later learned on Yelp, the restaurant is often called “Laundry Thai” or Laundromat Thai.”

I didn’t get any interior shots that are good enough to post, but I will say that the décor & lay-out are nice—orchids, carvings, lots of light, at least one booth & white clothed tables. There was a TV in the lobby, but the sound was turned off (I always think this is merciful), & I spent a pleasant 10 minutes waiting for my order wondering how a TV personality manages to have the exact same amount of assiduously tended 5:00 o’clock shadow for every show—I think this was on HGTV. Of course, I was only watching a single episode, but they ran a promo for the show during one ad interlude, & by golly, yes: the exact same 5:00 o’clock shadow in every shot. A true mystery.

The food? Not being a pro restaurant reviewer, I only got one dish (nor did I bring along a friend or comrade to expand the selections): mussamun (or massaman) curry—the titular curry paste in a sauce with coconut milk, & featuring potatoes, carrots, onion & peanuts; I got this with chicken (for the sake of the incipient cold), but it’s also available as vegetable only, with tofu, or beef or pork, or shrimp, squid, scallops or mixed seafood.
Beef is apparently the traditional meat for this curry, but I tend to go either the chicken or tofu route, depening on how the spirit moves me. I thought about adding salad rolls, but both from the standpoint of appetite & expense this seemed a little excessive for “just me.” Still, at $7.25, the price of the curry was most reasonable. I got it at “3x” in the spicy category.
The curry was good! It hit the spot, was reasonably spicy—some might even have called it hot, but I tend to have a high tolerance for hot food—& the portion reasonably sized—I was not left wanting more, tho I didn’t have any leftovers either, except for a bit of rice.  The restaurant has gotten a high percentage of positive reviews on Yelp, & based on this one experience, I can see why. I’ll admit that I’ve had more interesting Thai food: in my limited Portland experience, for instance, Chiang Mai on Hawthorne has some wonderful dishes—but this is tasty food at a reasonable price, & it’s certainly convenient, & with friendly service too. As I understand, the pumpkin curry & the drunken noodles are two particular favorites at Monsoon Thai—something to keep in mind for next time!

I’ll be back!


  1. Sounds delicious!

    Should your tickle develop into something worse, I recommend Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa cough syrup. You should be able to get it at any health food store.

  2. P.S. Love the photos - especially that top one.

  3. Wow! That's nice to have decent Thai food just around the corner. I had that experience in Newport - Thai, Japanese, Jamaican, and French cuisine withing a 5 minute walk from my house. Here in Shippensburg it's a different story, though; except for a couple of Chinese places specializing in Americanized Asian food, there's absolutely no culinary diversity around here. Bleah!

  4. Hi Kat & Roy

    Kat: It's good! I actually went back last night for the Drunken Noodles, & had I not been tired I would have added to the post--they were quite good. I can see why they're a fave. Will keep your remedy in mind. So far, while I certainly have something going on, it hasn't gotten too bad. Am going to take it really easy today.

    Roy: I feel your pain!--remember, I lived in rural Idaho for 14 years. I can almost guarantee you that if you moved one of those Chinese American restaurants from Shippensburg to Council, ID, it would immediately become the best restaurant in town! But, yes, I love good food, & diverse food, & it's wonderful to be in such a foodie town. Am very lucky in that respect (& a number of others) to have lived in both Portland & San Francisco.

  5. wondering how a TV personality manages to have the exact same amount of assiduously tended 5:00 o’clock shadow for every show

    This cracked me up. I've had similar thoughts about how well-preserved certain game show hosts are. They host the same show for decades and never look as if they've aged. I imagine them in some sort of space-agey containment tank in between shows being pumped full of nutrients.

    Anyway I enjoyed this flavorful post.

  6. Hi HKatz: I think there is indeed such a tank--or many such tannks--filled with game show hosts & other assorted TV personalities! Glad you enjoyed this.

  7. Can't remember ever having had Thai food. You've inspired me to keep my eye out in future.

    There is a great Chinese takeaway near here (in Middleham): it's not often I buy food out that's as good as what one can make at home, but this certainly is.

    There's another place, nearer, which does Pizzas and kebabs (known as Sopranos). Just had their vegiburger and chips for my tea washed down with coca cola. The joy of junk.

  8. Hi Dominic: Sorry to be so slow in responding: as per the post, I've been battling a cold all week (despite the Thai food, it did get worse for a few days), & haven't been on top of things. I like a decent Chinese take-out place--always nice to fall back on. None real convenient to where I live as it turns out. Surprised you haven't had Thai--it's very common in most US cities of any size.


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