When Revelry, the hip Southeast Portland restaurant and bar, closed last year, chef de cuisine Diane Lam decided to go all-in on a noodle pop-up. She and business partner David Sigal worked out a deal with the temporarily closed Psychic bar on Mississippi, taking over the outdoor bar and kitchen for a “residency.” While Revelry was known for a peanut-brittle-topped fried chicken, Lam wanted to do something different at Sunshine Noodles: A Cambodian style fried bird, with a peppery lime sauce.
The fried chicken became a breakout hit at Sunshine. People would sit on the Psychic cocktail bar patio gnawing on bones and sipping cocktails, with bowls of Phnom Penh noodles alongside the wings. The pop-up became enough of a success that Sigal and Lam decided to find their own place, as Portland Monthly first reported.
But Lam had an idea: With full-capacity indoor dining months away, she wanted to pursue a business in the interim that wasn’t as reliant on onsite dining, something that worked on the go. So she decided to look to her fried chicken, and again, do it her way: Starting later this month, Lam will launch Prey + Tell, a delivery-and-takeout-only fried chicken and rice business, with sauces like Cambodian ranch and glittery rice packs.
Unlike the typical pandemic pivot, Lam wants Prey & Tell to have some longevity, after COVID-19 becomes less of a daily fact of life. That’s why she enlisted the help of two friends outside the industry: Nicole Chow of Nike and Sarah Khogyani of Lyft. Together, they came up with the concept of Prey & Tell and its rice packs, coming up with a sort of virtual restaurant complete with online presence and a distinct style.
But when Prey + Tell begins selling fried chicken and rice until 2 a.m. on January 15, it’ll be in something like a beta-release. Rice will come with banana-leaf-wrapped-rice packs, with a choice of category: jasmine rice with Thai chili pickles, cauliflower rice with an herb salad, jasmine rice with smashed dried ramen, and jasmine rice with edible glitter.
The chicken itself will come with the same dredge and seasoning as the Sunshine Noodles version, without the citrus pepper sauce; instead, it’ll come on the side, with a few other options. The restaurant’s “Mekhong Mud,” lemon-pepper sauce, is joined by a fish-sauce-sherry caramel emulsified with butter, a seasoned lime and fish sauce, French-Cambodian style ranch, and a lime-leaf-buffalo. Lam’s aunt taught her to make that ranch when she was a kid; she would spend whole days working through a head of iceberg lettuce, dipping torn leaves in the sauce. “Our main goal isn’t offering fried chicken; we wanted to create a culture-clash element in what we’re doing,” Lam says. “We’ve talked about Asian American cuisine, the new Americana... That kind of sentiment fits what we’re doing right now.”
When Sunshine Noodles reopens in March, it will be Prey + Tell’s turn to take a break; however, when it reopens, it’ll be a much larger beast, with online events and merch like rice paddles and sauce caddies. “At a brick and mortar, you understand the schematics of everything, you understand the mood, the feel,” she says. “Everything we use, everything we make, goes into people’s households... This takeout stuff, it’s going to have a lasting impression on our industry. We can pave the way so that reflects who we are.”
• Prey + Tell [Instagram]
• Noodle Bar Pop-Up Sunshine Noodles Returns, Taking Over the Kitchen at Mississippi Bar Psychic [EPDX]
• Sunshine Noodles Is Going on Hiatus Until March. Meanwhile, There’s Fried Chicken. [PoMo]