Hidden away off of Hall Boulevard (and with another location in downtown Portland), Thai Chili Jam boasts of delicious, exotic Thai cuisine. Upon entering, one notices the myriad decorations, with elephants, paintings and photos of entrees gracing the walls.
It is a cozy, warm restaurant with quick service and delicious food. The staff is efficient and friendly, and don't be surprised if one of them asks if you want to see a photo of her pet cat (it is a really cute cat). There is also a bar petitioned off where beer and wine is served for those of 21 years and up.
Most entree dishes range from $10 to $15 and although the portion sizes may appear small, they are actually quite filling. Proteins offered include tofu, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, scallop or squid. Yes, you can order a squid curry! Each protein is chosen with a corresponding entree selection, including a multitude of pad stir-fries, curries (yellow, green, red, pumpkin etc.), and house specialties.
Every entree is served with a bowl of jasmine rice, which for the more ravenous consumers may not be enough (so go ahead and order an additional rice bowl for $2). Also, don't be afraid if you notice black specks on the rice; they are black-seeds, a panacea, whose beneficial effects are just being discovered.
Appetizers go for about $5 and include satays, egg rolls, wantons, lobster balls and a more mysterious "Ohh my God," which curiously lacks a description. The chicken satay, grilled breast meat on a skewer served with peanut sauce, is worth every cent of its $6 price-tag. Succulent and healthy, it is the ideal option for a more health-conscious person. The wontons, deep-fried with ground chicken, are also delicious and crunchy, but probably not the best option for someone watching their fat intake.
The lobster balls are unfortunately the least appetizing of the appetizers. Though their presentation is beautiful and the spicy-sweet sauce they come with is perfect, the balls themselves have a chewy texture. This brings down the rating from five stars to four stars (the lack of dinner knives does not help either, though that may be the result of cultural authenticity, not unpreparedness).
Moving on to the main courses, any slight dissatisfaction is ameliorated with absolutely scrumptious, fresh, tasty dishes. The green curry, served with bamboos shoots, bell pepper, basil and fat chunks of eggplant, is one of those dishes that you can't eat-while-maintaining-a-conversation kind of good. Each ingredient is chopped to the perfect size, especially the eggplant, which is neither too chewy nor too soggy and the basil adds a unique kick to the curry. Beware though, it is a bit spicy, despite not being advertised as such.
If you're looking for a milder, less saucy option, the house specialties or pad stir fries are a better choice. The lemongrass chicken, served with steamed broccoli and peanut sauce, combines the zest of lemongrass with the sweetness of peanut sauce. It is a refreshingly healthy dish that also tastes good when mixed with the green curry (not to say that such a combination has ever personally been tested).
Overall, Thai Chili Jam is pretty darn good, falling just short of a five-star because of sub-par lobster balls. Otherwise, the entrees were mouth-wateringly good and fresh, the staff was friendly, and the prices were decent (though not necessarily "cheap"). Definitely would recommend!