[NEXT-TIER THAI] Remember why you're here: damn good renditions of several Thai standards, a few offerings with a little added flair, no crazy crowds. Tarad is among the handful of Portland Thai restaurants positioned between Pok Pok and dozens of neighborhood spots serving dumbed-down dishes to those who don't know better or don't care. Service at Tarad isn't especially adroit, the furnishings are spare, and garish pink paper menus are crinkled from use. Still, enter the street-corner door and do some sampling. The "chef's special" pad thai puu sen jun ($13) was a pleasant version of the classic noodle and egg dish, a little light on the advertised crab meat, but free from tangled lumps or cloying sauce. There is a well-populated guoy teaw section of the menu featuring three $9 soup options (classic tom yum broth with pork, "chicken stew" in a soy-flavored broth, and a pork noodle soup), each of which includes one of four noodle varieties. The som tum (green papaya salad, $8) had a decent kick, especially with salted egg chopped on top (add $2). Of the several "Northern Thai Specials," try the gaeng hung lay ($12), chunks of pork in a hot pot with a mild-sweet curry broth. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Check out the specials board on the wall. One night, a generously portioned platter of simply steamed fish fillets served with a ramekin of chili-and-herb infused spicy sauce went for only $8.