Green curry vegetables, served with rice, from Kuno. Photo by Leslie Bridgers

I’ve been salivating over the Instagram photos of Kuno’s Southeast Asian dishes ever since the sleek black food truck – a vehicle taken over from Thainy Boda – started roaming the streets of Portland in 2019, but I never managed to align my lunch plans with its scheduled stops on the Western Prom and in brewery parking lots.

That changed this fall when it found a more consistent home on Cumberland Avenue, just east of Franklin Street, and, maybe more importantly, started offering delivery – a service I now count among my pandemic-adjusted guilty pleasures.

Since September, the truck has been parked in the lot beside the former Bayside Variety convenience store that had been under renovation to become a barbecue restaurant. Those plans fell through, and Kuno has since leased the space and added its own touches in preparation for opening whenever it makes sense safety- and business-wise, possibly within the next couple months, said owner Nick Yee.

Crab wontons from Kuno. Photo by Leslie Bridgers

The menu is somewhat limited at this point – Yee said there will be additional dishes for dine-in customers when the time comes – and I’ve tried just about everything, from Brussels sprouts to pad Thai. Several stand out: The crab wonton ($8) and Nasi Goreng ($12) have fulfilled cravings for crab Rangoon and fried rice, but in a lighter, less greasy way. The stir-fry ground chicken with basil ($11) is a simple but satisfying dish that seems to be a favorite with other Kuno customers.

In attempting to join the trend toward eating less meat, I discovered what’s now my go-to order, green curry vegetables ($10), which is packed with zucchini, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, bell pepper and tofu in a broth that tastes rich but doesn’t feel overly heavy. Served with rice, it’s a good deal for dinner. Still, out of fear that a vegetarian dish might not do it, I usually tack on an order of chicken wings ($8.50), which are tossed in a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce and fall off the bone.

The last time I went to place an order, I saw that Kuno had shifted from doing its pickups out of the food truck to inside the building where the restaurant will be. Curious, I decided to forgo delivery and check it out.

To be honest, the news of Kuno moving into this space was bittersweet. I’d been fantasizing with my friends, who live across the street, about making it our own restaurant or bar ever since we saw a “for lease” sign go up. Realistically, we would still be arguing over the name, but it did put an end to our running debate.

All was forgiven, however, when I saw the ample and attractive bar (already mixing up to-go cocktails, including a Mai Tai and Basil Gin Smash) that takes up most of the room where the pickup station is. A dining room is set up on the other side of a wall, and the parking lot will be used as an outdoor dining area during the summer.

I can only imagine that now, when my friends and I do get to sit down safely together inside, we’re less likely to be lamenting our dashed dream, and instead will be grateful for something we once took for granted.


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