Boda is a small, cozy Thai restaurant on Congress Street in the Old Port district in Portland, Maine. In recent years, if you are a foodie, you know that Portland is on the top of foodie destinations in the United States. In fact, in 2018, Bon Apetit named Portland the Restaurant City of the Year. There are so many options to choose from, and rarely can you make a bad selection while in Portland, but every now and then you find a gem that stands out, which I think we did with Boda.
We arrived in a torrential downpour / windstorm on a Wednesday night and were expecting the place to be dead. However, both rooms in the hip restaurant were full and the vibe was upbeat and convivial.
Cocktails and Appetizer
Before making any big food decisions, we always select our cocktails. I chose the Tom Yum Margarita – a spicy spirit made with Espolon Blanco, coconut liquer, and makrut lime, with the key ingredient being a chili tincture. And, when I say spicy, I mean SPICY. I’ve been enjoying spicy margs for a few years now but this one took the cake – it brought the heat from first to last sip and was not at all overly sweet.
My husband had the Chef Bob Sour, which was dry-hopped Maker’s Mark, sweet vermouth and citrus. I’m not usually able to stomach anything made with whiskey, but I tried it for the purposes of this review and have to admit that I probably could have made this drink disappear no problem. It was lightly sweet and smooth.
For our appetizer, we had Kanom Jeeb Gai, which were chicken dumplings with ginger, scallion, onion, shitake and carrot. The dumplings were adorable little packets – smaller than the usual dumpling, but chockfull of tasty chicken and shitake mushrooms, and they came with a sweet/spicy dipping sauce made of sesame soy and fried garlic. Just enough to whet the appetite.
For the entrée, we decided to share two dishes, which was just the right amount of food. Both came with fluffy, perfect jasmine rice – the kind I aspire to be able to produce. My favorite of the two entrees was the Beef Panaeng, made with braised beef, salty and sweet panaeng curry, aromas of Thai basil and lime leaf with coconut cream.
The beef was tender and flavorful, almost sweet, with a satisfying broth that had hints of peanut.
The second entrée was Kra-Prao Chicken, which was made with stir-fried ground chicken, hot basil, onion, green beans, and red pepper. I found the inclusion of a dish made with ground chicken to be unique, and it was stir-fried just right, resulting in a near crispy tenderness.
The dish itself, with a heat level of two stars, was spicy enough for my palette given the accompanying margarita, but for those who really like to turn up the heat, it came with a spicy fish sauce which my husband did not find too unbearable and drizzled over the stir fry and rice, which was also topped with a fried egg.
There were plenty of entrées to choose from, as seen on the menu.
Although we were pleasantly full by the end of the main course, we’d enjoyed it so much we knew we had to try dessert. And thank goodness we did. It was an amazing fluffy cheesecake with a Thai tea infusion flavor. It was not as rich as traditional cheesecake and was light enough that I wondered if it could have also been made with ricotta.
We devoured the generous size of cheesecake and then had to venture back out into the near hurricane winds and sideways rain, making the treacherous journey back to our car with full bellies that would have preferred us to walk more slowly.
Given this was a trendy and high-quality restaurant in Portland, Maine I expected the final tally to reflect this. However, we were able to enjoy all of this for under $90, which this day and age is an accomplishment.
Boda Restaurant – Review Summary
I would recommend this restaurant and would also like to go back as there were several things on the menu that intrigued me such as the Red Curry Jay, a vegan dish made with tofu, broccolini, red pepper, zucchini, green beans, summer squash, Thai basil, garlic, shallot, galangal, and red chili over jasmine rice.
The menu also included an intriguing take on Pad Thai with their Woon-Sen Pad Thai, which is made with glass noodles, Chinese chive, shallot, salted daikon, bean sprout, fish sauce, and tofu “wrapped in a Thai egg omelet with raw bean sprouts, lime, ground peanuts, and chili flakes.” Overall, there were several vegan or vegetarian options on the menu, and a full selection of Grill Bar options for people who like skewered goodies.
We ended up at Boda based on a recommendation from a friend who lives in Portland and shared some of her favorite spots in the overly saturated foodie city. She did recommend calling ahead when we were on our way as they do not take reservations. When we were 15 minutes away, we called but got a recording letting us know they only seat on a first come first served basis.
Given that this was a Wednesday night in off-peak tourist season during a late-fall wind and rainstorm, I would imagine that getting a seat here on a weekend night or during the summer may be more challenging, so it is likely they may accept calling ahead during those times.
Either way, if you get there and you have to wait to be seated, it’s worth the wait. The service was fast and friendly, so you won’t stay hungry long! They also offer take out options if you would rather dine at home or along the waterfront in Portland’s Old Port district. If you’re still on the fence, check out Boda’s Instagram, and it should help you make the decision.