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January 16th, 2002 Caryn B. Brooks | z-Miss Dish
 

KALGA'S CALLING

     
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The suave men who power the vegetarian late-night Kalga Kafe
IMAGE: ben guzman
GENTLE READERS,
Miss Dish's cohort, the kind and gentle Captain Broccoli, doesn't go in for eating animals. As Miss Dish loyalists know, her Royal Ryeness enjoys animal, vegetable and mineral as long as they're paw-licking good. Since Miss D. enjoys the company of the sunny and brainy Captain Broccoli, finding some middle ground is a mission. Giddy is how they found themselves as they headed over to the new Kalga Kafe, a 4-week-old eatery that bills itself as "a late-night international organic vegetarian restaurant."

Kalga has taken over the spot where a Three Lions Bakery once stood, at 4147 SE Division St. A studied interior design overhaul has reshaped what was once a sterile space into a warm and subcontinentally exotic hangout with a bar, a smattering of sofas, an eclectic soundscape and handsome tableware straight out of India. The menu features what could be considered the Vegetarian's Greatest Hits. Indian delights such as vegetable samosas and dal cohabitate with pizza, pasta and Thai curry. Usually a lack of focus like this makes Miss Dish second-guess an establishment, but in this case it seems inspired: The focus here is vegetarian, and these are the dishes that best represent the form. After attacking one of the best samosas she's ever had (a fragrant doughy exterior that didn't overpower the sprightly potato and pea mixture inside) and inhaling a crisp pizza dressed simply with olive oil and romano cheese, Miss Dish checked in with Captain Broccoli for her evaluation. She smiled and said, "This is the place I've always wanted to build but never did."

Indeed, there's much to respect. Exciting, organic veg-head food (everything can be done vegan) served 6 pm-2 am Sunday-Thursday, 6 pm-4 am Friday-Saturday? At decent prices ranging from $5 for the samosas to $10 for the Taste of Japan platter? Even though countless Portland vegetarian restaurants have been scraped into the great compost heap of culinary history, Miss Dish believes there is an audience for this seductive setup. Miss Dish snapped her fingers to beckon the owners and was rewarded with meeting Sukh Deep, a 25-year-old Virginia native whose parents sunk their whole life savings into the venture.

Deep, along with friends Matthew Fortmeyer (overseeing the kitchen) and Patrick Wheeler (the floor manager), co-owns the establishment, and the trio have big plans that include booking live late-night music, hosting warehouse parties and dragging sofas out onto the sidewalk in the summer. "We're trying to see the old tradition of the restaurant return," says Deep. This means making the falafels, the pitas, the tortillas, the curry paste, the baguettes and everything else that's humanly possible from scratch in-house. It also means relying on local, small businesses for their support: The ladies from Seaplane, the indie clothing store on Belmont, made the curtains. And, when the crew starts a bike-delivery service for customers within a 20-block radius this week, they'll be hauling your dinner in Tupperware that they'll unload on your waiting plates to quash excessive use of packing materials. Once things pick up, they want to start opening for lunch as well. Call the Kalga Kafe at 236-4770.

 
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