Thai Carnation
Graphic by John Mendelssohn

My friend, Natcho Ebay and her husband Chef Manat are part of a large family that enjoyed the couple’s cooking in their native Thailand upon many occasions before they decided to relocate to the US- PNW. Adding to their experience, they also served as many as a thousand people at a time during Thai festival season, They now operate the popular Thai Carnation Restaurant and Lounge located at 24697 SE Stark St where Troutdale and Gresham intersect in the Portland, Oregon metroplex.

There is a good reason why this restaurant quickly sailed to popularity. From the beginning, the young couple has enthusiastically prepared treasured family recipes that were passed from one generation to the next, adding unique skills and instincts to transform the them into unrivaled gastronomical expressions. Area residents love it, and flock to the restaurant in droves.

Natcho and Manet are deeply rooted in their Thai cookery. They see their food as art, the plate a canvas, and the food their paint. Eating at Thai Carnation isn’t just a meal. It’s an unforgettable experience that fully engages the senses. Customers delight in the Thai spices that waft from the kitchen and evoke anticipation of what is to come. Each selection is beautifully arranged on the plate making it as visually pleasing as it is delicious. The food is healthful, delicious and unlike any other Thai cuisine in the Pacific Northwest. The couple understands the subtle delicacies and layered complexities of their native cuisine inside-out, coaxing these things to the forefront with grace and confidence.

The exterior of Thai Carnation seems nondescript as is any other restaurant along that particular stretch of Stark Street suburbia. The element of surprise becomes evident the instant the customer walks through the doors. While the food is ultimately the most important aspect of a restaurant, the interior design is crucial in ensuring the most pleasurable customer experiences. Thai Carnation does not disappoint.

The restaurant’s pristine dining area is tastefully appointed in exotic Thai decor replete with beautiful art, religious statuary, candles, plants and an overall serene vibe. The room is spacious and bright. The seating is comfy and intelligently arranged to optimize privacy while dining. Thai music lends authenticity to the experience.

The masked, black-clad staff can be seen quietly bustling about doing whatever is necessary to please their hungry patrons. They are polite, knowledgable and among the most efficient staff I have ever encountered in a restaurant. Since I eat a plant-based diet, I inquired about their vegetarian options and was informed that they can make virtually anything on the menu either vegan or vegetarian on demand.

The vegetable-centric menu is also inclusive of seafood, chicken and limited beef dishes.

Since I know Natcho, the owner, I always order what the Japanese refer to as, “omakasi”. This translates as, “I’ll leave it to you,” and it is a good choice, as she knows what is best on a given day, and always chooses the most delectable selections for me.

Steamed vegetable dumplings

The meal on this occasion, began with a plate of potstickers. They consist of the customer’s choice of steamed or fried pillows of handmade dough stuffed with an array of seasonal vegetables that includes broccoli, corn, spinach and glass noodles. Each is sprinkled with a delicious crunchy topping. The dumplings come served with a tantalizing Thai-style soy ginger sauce. The potstickers are offered alongside a selection of 14 other appetizers.

Deep Fried Tofu

We also had a plate of the deep fried tofu, which consisted of dredged, triangular tofu segments lightly fried and served with the restaurant’s own sweet and sour sauce. The sauce had the perfect balance of sweet and savory blends of culinary magic. The tofu was garnished with the bold orange, green and purple of shredded carrots and cabbage.

Mango Curry

The mango curry, served with steamed white rice, was a bold combination of tofu and yellow curry paste suspended in a creamy coconut milk base with bits of fresh mango, cashews, onion and bell pepper. Like most of the restaurant’s dishes, the textures ranged from smooth and creamy to defiantly crunchy.

Perfectly Steamed White Rice

Pad Vegetables with Cashews

The second entree was an extraordinary pad vegetable dish with cashews. It consisted of thinly sliced carrots , delicate bamboo shoots, fresh broccoli, baby corn, onion, red and green bell pepper and cashews. It was moderately spicy, which was tempered by the sweetness of the coconut milk. Again, a perfect balance of color, texture and flavor that could do nothing but delight.

The meal concluded with the chef’s special black rice pudding.

Black Rice Pudding

Natcho characterizes their Black Rice Pudding as the restaurant’s signature dessert. It is presented with a generous portion of sliced, fresh mango resting gently on a bed of sweet sticky rice pudding and sprinkled with seseme seeds. The combination creates a harmonious blend of sweet and tangy flavors and smooth textures that are offset by the satisfying crunch of the toasty seseme seeds. The dish is richly satisfying, yet light and is definitely delicious.

Natcho Ebay

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All foods at Thai Carnation are made with fresh, local ingredients and are MSG-free. Customers are asked to select their preferred spice levels.

This is a LGBTQ-friendly establishment.

Thai Carnation offers both COVID-compliant in-restaurant dining and carry out orders as well. Until further notice, masks are required for dining in.

Customers can order through Grub Hub, or on the restaurant’s website at:

http://www.thaicarnationpdx.com

Thai Carnation Restaurant

24697 SE Stark Street

Troutdale, OR. 97060

503-994-7777