Earlier this year, Revelry chef de cuisine Diane Lam partnered with David Sigal of Mian for a noodle bar pop-up, Sunshine Noodles. The menu included dishes like Kuy Teav Phnom Penh, an egg noodle soup with pork and shrimp, and fish curry with vermicelli and cucumbers. The pop-up was a success, but what surprised Lam was how much she loved it.
Next year, she’ll double down on noodles, transforming the current Revelry into a straight-up noodle bar. Revelry Noodle Bar is a rebrand of the original Southeast Portland restaurant, still owned by Seattle hotshots Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s Relay restaurant group. Revelry has been Lam’s show for a while now: As a 29-year-old chef de cuisine on the front lines, Lam is now managing both the front and back of house, the face of the restaurant at events and parties. The noodle bar switch-up will be the biggest move for her into fully running things, overhauling the menu and redecorating the space. The current plan involves dishes like squid ink cacio e pepe with furikake and a bo kho — or Vietnamese beef stew — with a slick of jalapeno lime oil.
Lam grew up in California “as the black sheep of the family,” in her words. After dropping out of college, Lam worked in restaurants, and after years serving, she decided she wanted to be in the kitchen. “I told my dad in high school, ‘I want to go to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in New York.’ He said, ‘No, don’t waste your mind,’” she remembers. “I was making $33 per hour as a restaurant server at 21, so I said, ‘Why don’t I just pay for it myself?’”
Lam worked in Michigan before moving to Joule in Seattle, where she met Yang. “The food that I cook, I feel like I grew up in her school,” Lam says of the James-Beard-nominated chef. After a stint at the famed State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, she moved up to help open Revelry. Within two years, she was promoted to CDC. Lam feels indebted to Yang, but the change-ups at Revelry will serve as Lam’s step into the spotlight, her opportunity to develop her own voice as a chef.
While the current Revelry menu is split into starters, noodles, and rice bowls, the culinary blueprints for the noodle bar simplify the menu to just starters and noodles, with a handful of dishes saved from the original menu — Mrs. Yang’s fried chicken, topped with the peanut brittle, isn’t going anywhere. But half of Revelry’s new menu will stick to noodles, from Dungeness crab noodles with nori pasta and curry sauce to hearty soup with ribbons of extra-long wontons. It’s not strictly Korean, though Revelry never really was; still, Lam wanted to venture even further into global territory with her cooking.
“Minority groups are the only group where you have to be ‘authentic,’ but if you’re a classically trained chef, you have French technique. There’s so much I can’t do because people expect me to be authentic,” she says. “This menu reflects who I am as an Asian American — I grew up eating Italian food as much as I ate Cambodian food.” In that respect, many noodles on the future menu are nods to her childhood, just not necessarily her heritage; she grew up eating Shin ramyun, so the restaurant’s Korean ramen comes with Shin add-ons like cheese and egg. The bo kho is a nod to the deli near her grandmother’s house in the San Gabriel Valley, where she ordered takeout for the family as a kid.
The redesign of the actual space, however, will look forward, not back: She’s going for something sort of industrial-utopian, with lots of pastel colors and unfinished stone. “Everyone romanticizes a utopian future,” Lam says. “I just can’t get enough of it.”
The restaurant will not close in the meantime; Revelry Noodle Bar should be up and running by mid January, with a brief closure in early January.