Kitsch, swank and a tasty cocktail can go a loooong way with me when I’m in a party mood. And swank reigns supreme at Kon Asian Bistro.

Kon's groovy Buddha and mod lights.

The Asian fusion restaurant (located way the heck out on Brighton Street) earned immediate points for:

  1. A large, uplit Buddha statue – his groovy girth shimmering in a reflecting pool,
  2. Mod lights and floaty ceiling swags, and
  3. A seriously strong – totally-not-girly-although-it-sounds-like-it — pomtini (pomegranate vodka with a dash of cranberry juice.)

The food wasn’t half bad either. The non-Thai food, that is.

A group of Thai-o-rama reviewers gathered at Kon a few weeks back to check another one off the list and celebrate the b-days of two of our ilk: Joe of Portland Food Coma, and Seth, Jenner’s intrepid dinner date.

And, the great thing about a crowd? Sharing.

Joe and Jenner were Kon veterans, and their recommendations – all Chinese items – were the pros of the night.

The Thai food – a snapper chosen by A. of Portland Food Map and, unfortunately, my Pad Thai (sigh) — were the cons.

Adam’s Udon soup fell somewhere in the middle, and I honestly can’t recall what Kate of The Blueberry Files – who ordered late — had (damn you, pomtini!)

The Pros:

Mini Peking Duck Appetizer: I picked this deconstructed dim sum on Jenner’s strong recommendation. I wasn’t disappointed. Tasty shredded duck strands. Puffy little “min bun” pancakes. Julienned cucumber and scallions. Five spice rub. A Peking dipping sauce of salty soy and hoisin. Very Chinese and very flavorful.

Yummy rock shrimp appetizer at Kon Asian Bistro.

Rock Shrimp Appetizer: A pile of crispy little tempura shrimp poppers topped with a sweet, tangy sauce. Joe’s rock shrimp appetizer made me drool. The whole table loved it. He had to order a second round as a result. Served in a half-orange peel. Alight with sesame and fennel flavors. Drizzled with a creamy sauce akin to a light, orangey mayonnaise. Serious yum.

Crispy Szechuan Beef: Fried shredded beef. Sweet brown sauce. Celery and carrots. Very tasty, but kinda cloying after a few bites. I loved sampling, but probably wouldn’t want it for the entire meal.

The Cons:

Pad Thai: Not the worst I’ve ever had, but certainly not the best. The noodles were a tad clumpy and the chicken – while nice and tender — was scarce. Too mild (Kon doesn’t offer heat options), it was mainly just humdrum. And, although it came with the requisite lime, it was dry and curled on the edges.

Thai Red Snapper: Deep fried and prepared with onions, snow peas, peppers, basil and Thai sweet chili sauce, it sounded promising. Unfortunately, it tasted muddy (more like catfish than snapper) and had an unappealing spongy texture. Not spicy. Not aromatic. The only positive thing I can say — there was a lot of it.

The Service: Earnest and friendly, but a bit slow.

The Bottom Line: Kon really is more Asian Fusion than Thai, and its Thai offerings seem to be its weakest link. While I’m not a big fan of hibachi, if that’s your bag, the folks in the secluded hibachi area were having a grand, raucous time. For me, the Chinese dishes were stellar – and well worth repeat visits.

Blogger’s Note: This post is the third in a series of Thai restaurant reviews being conducted — and posted on the same day — by a group of Portland bloggers and writers. For other reviews, check out Portland Food Map.

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