Cute packaging featuring the restaurant’s signature eye-catching food print
Cute packaging featuring the restaurant’s signature eye-catching food print Janey Wong
At the Indonesian-Chinese inspired restaurant Gado Gado (the name was plucked from the salad dish of the same name, which is a hallmark of Indonesian cuisine), bartender Scout Caldwell switches up menus to keep cocktails seasonal-ish. Two of the current menu’s cocktails include nods to Arrested Development—there’s a rye based drink called the “Never Nude,” and a tribute to the show’s late matriarch, Jessica Walter, which includes both gin AND vodka; definitely speaking Lucille Bluth’s language. A little inside info for y’all: Caldwell is planning on shouting out Parks and Rec next.

After seeing Cocktails for a Cause initiatives at other spots around Portland, general manager Rebecca Nguyen was inspired to start one at Gado Gado. “In this last year, your priorities kind of shifted a little bit and you want to give back to your community in any way that you can,” said Nguyen. “One way that we can do it besides physically ‘showing up’ is monetarily.”

Gado Gado launched the menu feature this month to coincide with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month AND Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout May, a portion of proceeds from each featured cocktail is going toward the Asian Mental Health Collective, a nonprofit that works to provide support within the AAPI community. A double whammy (triple, if you count the fact that you’re getting booze)... we love to see it!

This month’s featured cocktail is a Lime Leaf Caipirinha with Novo Fogo Silver cachaça, lime leaf, fresh lime, and house pandan syrup. (For more on cachaça and the Caipirinha, see last week’s column.) The pandan is very subtle, which I actually appreciated as I think it can enter the territory of being a bit cloying. The ingredient takes a backseat to the bright and tangy lime, making the cocktail a good foil to Gado Gado’s menu of flavor-packed, spicy dishes.

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Speaking of which, I went for the Daging Bakar Kerabu, a Malaysian (my motherland!) dish that can be broken down into two components: daging bakar is grilled meat, and kerabu is a chili salad that incorporates fresh veggies and/or fruit. In his iteration, chef and co-owner Thomas Pisha-Duffly uses a charred flatiron steak and green mango. Traditionally, the dish is served with nasi cooked in butterfly pea flowers, which gives the rice a blue hue… aaand “I’m afraid I just blue myself.” (Sorry, I couldn't help it.)

Oh yeah, I also got a house made Jell-O shot for good measure. Gado Gado’s includes Monopolowa vodka, mango, guava, aperol, lime, and coconut jellies. Are you one of those people who likes to smell things before you eat or drink them? I have become one of those people for the sake of research, and let me tell you that this Jell-O shot smells freakin’ amazing. Like a tropical vacay. I wish so badly I was at a party right now instead of typing away at my desk. I also wish I’d gotten more than one of these little suckers.

Gado Gado, 1801 NE César E Chávez, (503) 206-8778, gadogadopdx.com