In Portland, it has become second nature for diners to line up for brunch or duck out of work early to make it to happy hour; all the while, the traditional midday meal can tend to get overlooked. But lunch can provide a more approachable opening for diners who are curious about a new-to-them restaurant, and it can also serve as a playground for chefs to offer fun, experimental dishes that they feel do not fit elsewhere on the menu. Three pandemic-born Portland restaurants have just started their lunch programs; below, get a taste of all three before you sneak out of the office.
The Japanese-Northwestern cuisine at this sleek restaurant attached to the outdoor brand Snow Peak takes its cues from Oregon produce. At the restaurant’s new weekend lunch service, the teishoku set — a traditional Japanese meal which includes a main dish, rice, soup, and pickles — showcases chef Cody Auger’s seafood prowess through tender cuts of black cod and saba shioyaki. Other entree options include udon and curry with optional add-ons like onzen tamago, aburaage, or chicken katsu. From the bar, Takibi is delivering a Japanese perennial favorite, the highball, plus a refreshing yuzu shandy that is also available sans alcohol. Lunch service starts on November 19 and reservations are available through Resy.
In October, Oma’s owners Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly took their team on a trip to Singapore, where they delved into the country’s cuisine and took cooking classes. The trip also provided inspiration for a new lunch menu, which stays true to the restaurant’s spirit of highlighting Malaysian, Singaporean, and Indonesian street food as well as Chinese barbecue. Dinner mainstays such as wonton mee and Oma’s corn fritters will make their way to the lunch menu, but midday diners should beeline for the new spicy Katong laksa, a hard-to-find-in-Portland noodle soup ideal for winter days. Thomas Pisha-Duffly has also dreamed up a playful sandwich menu, which will include a Filet-O-Fishball sandwich and a vegan roti wrap with green pea and mint fritters, cumin beet raita, and herb chutney. Lunch starts on November 19 and will be available on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant will take walk-ins and reservations.
Chef Deepak Saxena, known for his Indian American food cart Desi PDX, expanded his culinary footprint in Portland earlier this year, with the opening of his breakfast restaurant Masala Lab. But the lab has been experimenting with lunch fare, as well: Saxena has developed a new lunch menu of snacks, salads, and sandwiches to serve at the restaurant. Saag paneer goes handheld in a sandwich that includes Gorge Greens tossed in turmeric mustard dressing, while the new Tandoori Tuna sandwich features Oregon coast tuna poached in coconut milk and mustard oil. All of the menu’s sandwiches are made with gluten-free New Cascadia bread and served with a choice of seasonal dal, daily rotating soup, bean salad, or vadouvan pasta salad. To drink, the Masala Mary one-ups the traditional bloody mary with the additions of garam masala green chutney, amchoor, Kashmiri chile, and a toasted cumin rim. Expanded brunch and lunch service begins on November 28 and will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday to Tuesday.