Rather bland and colorless at heat level 1, but quite tasty and addictive at heat level 2, the Pad Thai at Veranda Thai Cuisine was a microcosm of our recent dining experience there.

My tasty and colorful Chicken Pad Thai

That is to say — wildly inconsistent.

Friendly and cozy, with great smells wafting from the kitchen, the little “outer Washington” restaurant seemed like a promising spot for a food blogger gathering. Plates delivered to neighboring tables revealed large, steaming portions.

For Adam and I, the meal began with a shared bowl of Chicken Tom Kha Gai. Lacking the requisite coconut milk, it featured fresh mushrooms and onions, but had very little flavor. Where’s the ginger, I pondered?

Not a good start.

Appetizers ordered by our dinner companions, however, looked fabulous. A. from Portland Food Map took pity on me and I speared a sample of his Thai dumplings. Plump and meaty with spiced pork and a sauce of bright acidity and ginger (ah, there was the ginger) — they were rich and perfectly cooked. Definite winners.

Adam’s Basil Duck, on the other hand, arrived limp and brown — a pile of boneless duck, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and onion in what the menu described as “hot basil sauce.”

Not so much.

It had very little heat, the duck was tough, the vegetables weren’t crisp and, as he put it, “it tastes like something that came out of a can.” Yikes!

But, across the table, Kate from The Blueberry Files munched happily away at her Larb Gai. She described it as fresh and citrusy “with a kick. ” I snaked my hand over for a fork full and concurred. Extremely yummy.

Turns out — she ordered it at “heat level 2.”

My Chicken Pad Thai — also ordered at heat level 2 — was decidedly peanutty with a spicy snap. Red in color from the spices and shiny with oil, the noodles slurped up beautifully. The Tofu Pad Thai — ordered by Margo from the Portland Daily Sun — was white and dry. It looked like a dish from a different restaurant. She had ordered it at heat level 1.

Lightbulb. You’ve gotta go for the heat.

Blogger’s Note: This post is the eighth 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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