written by Jen Stevenson
It’s hard to argue with a restaurant concept that promises “smoked meats and vacation drinks,” and that’s just what you’ll get (with a side of tamarind-spiked Thai BBQ fried rice) at North Portland’s Eem, a boozy, boisterous, funk and fire-kissed collaboration between James Beard Award-nominated restaurateur Earl Ninsom (Langbaan, Hat Yai), Matt’s BBQ pitmaster Matt Vicedomini and acclaimed bartender Eric Nelson (Shipwreck). Start the night with a long look at Nelson’s cocktail list—it’s hard to resist the siren call of the Nocturnal Worker, made with Thai rice liquor, Oaxacan rum, banana, soursop and cardamom, and bearing a provocative “limit two per guest” warning label. Tiki mug in hand, dive into fish sauce-doused fried cauliflower and roasted beets topped with fresh herbs and puffed jasmine rice, followed by the sweet-and-sour fried chicken, soy-honey-glazed baby back ribs and sliced pork steak served with crisp greens and spicy nahm prik noom dip. Double up on curries—it’s impossible to choose between the fiery “jungle” curry swimming with slices of tender, slow-smoked brisket, and rich, velvety white coconut curry topped with melt-in-your-mouth burnt brisket ends. For dessert, Langbaan pastry chef Maya Erickson makes two kinds of mini pies—an otherworldly lemongrass, pandan and lime cream capped with silky Makrut lime meringue, and Thai banana layered with incense-smoked custard, Mekhong caramel and chocolate. Order both, and perhaps a Chilean brandy and passion fruit-packed Liberation, along with your second (and last) Nocturnal Worker.
3808 N WILLIAMS AVE.