Know there are plenty of folks let down by all the built up anticipation of last year’s arrival of PDX and BKLN darling Pok Pok. Long, arduous debates about whether the problem was a matter of authenticity or misunderstandings about Northern Thai cuisine and Ricker’s mission.
I’ve traveled extensively throughout SE Asia including most provinces of Thailand (maybe less than TonyC though). Waited at the BKLN location for 90 minutes on balmy summer Sunday evening for a good meal. Stayed across the street from Pok Pok PDX in a former guitar storefront converted studio next store to Portland’s oldest marijuana dispensary (just okay). I’ve been to all the Whiskey Lounges and Phat Thais. Pondered the high price of the Som vinegars. My experience has been relatively the same as many on this board who weren’t dazzled. Pok Pok had become a serviceable DTLA ethnic lunch option.
But then I met a colleague for lunch during DineLA. The Khao Soi was fine, but the Fried Pork Laab and Buffalo Jerky with fried kaffir lime leaves knocked my socks off. Hmmm…
Then a recent evening meeting plus an event, cigar, and empty stomach later…ding dong, it’s 10pm and where to eat? Pok Pok or Night+Market? Okay 9:45pm. There may actually still be a wait at N+M. You say OpenTable says Pok Pok has a 10pm reser? Click. Done.
No cocktails. I’ve been mixing since 6:30pm. Must dry out. Ah, pandan-infused water. Just what the doctor ordered.
Neua Khwai Sawan
Deep-fried marinated dried buffalo with coriander seed and deep fried lime leaves. (Revisit and delicious)
Laap Thawt Isaan
Deep-fried Isaan style spicy pork laap with lime leaf, khao khua, chiles, lime juice and herbs. (Deja vu all over again)
Khanom Jiin Kaeng Kiaw Waan Luuk Chin Plaa
Coconut cream curry with hand formed fish balls and homemade green curry paste. Served on rice vermicelli with fried dry anchovies, boiled egg, pickled garlic, Thai eggplant and Thai basil. New item. Amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a hand pounded curry with fresh pressed coconut milk (not out of can!). What a huge difference it makes. What every green curry should aspire to be when it grows up.
Chayote Phat Khai with Pork Belly
Thin sliced chayote stir-fried pork fried with garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and beaten egg. Simple, soulful, and fulfilling.
Pok Pok actually put out a perfect meal. The entire experience rocked.
Returned a few days later for the mid-afternoon menu. The crew between shifts may not be as skilled. Rhubarb cocktail - excellent! Buffalo jerky - greasy and tough this time and ginormous, flabby greasier lime leaves, service - not as great until the evening shift came on board. And if the dishes are to be shared (100% of our dishes), why can’t you automatically provide serving spoons for F sake?
So, despite weaknesses experienced between lunch & dinner, things may be on the up and up at Pok Pok. Can’t wait to get back for the Fiddlehead Fern dish.
For you detractors, maybe worth another try.
Okay, ready, set, fire away!