Places such as Portland’s Langbaan have been dubbed “unrestaurants” for their deviation from the conventions of the city’s dining scene – keeping odd hours and occupying unusual premises – but don’t let the added prefix leave any negative connotations. These eateries are a welcome break from the norm, and Langbaan (Thai for “back of the house”) is up there with the best unrestaurants. Head down a corridor at the rear of Thai restaurant PaaDee, pull a meat grinder handle, and a bookcase slides aside to reveal a lovely little secret surprise from chef and owner Akkapong Earl Ninsom.
Bare bulbs, concrete walls and distressed timber greet the eye, with food served on rustic earthenware and carved wooden dishes amid the scent of indigenous Thai herbs that are dotted around in pots. Bangkok native Akkapong puts on tasting menus three nights a week as a side project from the main restaurant; his two assistant chefs hail from the country’s northeast and southern regions giving the food a well-rounded profile of influences. The $40 set menu changes monthly, dependent on ingredient availability, but expect inventive dishes that draw heavily from the traditions of home cooking.