by Jake Ten Pas
I don’t really believe in the concept of reverse racism. At least not in America. Racism is based on power, and, well, this isn’t a blog about reverse racism, so I won’t waste any more of your time with my philosophical ramblings. I simply mention it to preface what I’m about to say.
Reverse racism exists, and nowhere is it more prevalent than in Thai restaurants in Portland. If you don’t believe me, try a little experiment:
Step 1) If you’re white (and also a masochist), go into a Thai restaurant and order your favorite dish at the spiciest level the restaurant offers. This will usually be a four or five.
Step 2) Be disappointed.
Step 3) Invite one of your Asian friends to join you for the same meal at the same restaurant. If you don’t have an Asian friend, make one.
Step 4) Go back and order the same dish at the same level of heat.
Step 5) Enjoy (Unless you’re one of those “normal” people, who don’t like having your taste buds burned off of your tongue with edible lava, or the impending gastrointestinal discomfort that will surely accompany it).
Step 6) Come to the mandatory conclusion that white folks simply can’t get any respect when trying to order spicy at Thai restaurants. You might want to have a pillow handy, so you don’t have to cry into your sleeve.
Now that we’ve all learned something about the brutal nature of modern life, allow me to blow your mind. What if I were to tell you that there’s a Thai restaurant in Portland where the color of your skin not only doesn’t matter, but where the heat scale goes up not just to five, not even to eleven, but to TWENTY.
It’s called Lemongrass, and it’s located in a beautiful, if slightly dilapidated, old house on N.E. Couch St. The restaurant’s menu is pretty simple compared to many Thai places, and the staff seems to consist entirely of the family that owns the place. If you’re looking for either a luxurious or cookie-cutter dining experience, stay away. This means you, angry man on Yelp.
If, however, you’re looking to eat some incredibly delicious Thai food, and sweat out all the toxins in your body (and perhaps a few pints of essential bodily fluids), Lemongrass is the place for you.
Explaining to our host my issue with most Thai joints’ underestimation of my threshold for pain, I was met with eyes that said they’d heard it all before. I was told that I should probably order a level two on my green curry to match other restaurants’ level 5. Full of the sin of pride, I ordered a level three and braced myself.
Did I weep openly? Did I gnash my teeth? Did my internal organs liquefy? No. I’m a professional, people. I’ve eaten something called a Satan’s Handroll, Salvador Molly’s Balls of Fire and even attempted Orochon Ramen’s Special #2 noodle challenge.
But it was damn spicy, and full of flavor that surpassed that spice to disprove the notion that when a dish is too hot, all you can taste is the heat. And this was a level three. Imagine a ten, or heaven forbid a twenty. I am, and my imagination tastes delicious right now.
If you’re like me, and tired of the extremely first-world problem of not being able to get hot enough curry, stop by Lemongrass Thai sometime. I’ll be headed back soon myself, and this time I’m trying for a five. Pray for me.