Pok Pok NY would be the ideal neighborhood spot for residents of Brooklyn rental apartments in the Columbia Street Waterfront District area, and in Cobble Hill, and in Carroll Gardens–this is a fun place, friendly, reasonably priced, and really, truly, crazy-delicious–except that it seems like the whole of Brooklyn and a big chunk of Manhattan have decided to make Pok Pok THEIR neighborhood Thai spot too, and so the lines snake down Columbia Street, the waits for a table routinely hit an hour or more.
Granted, Portland chef Andy Ricker’s sit-down Thai restaurant has only been open for a few days, so the excitement might die down (though with food this good, that seems unlikely), but if you want to eat at Pok Pok NY now–and you should, because it’s one of those rare restaurants that actually lives up to the hype–you need to be a bit of a planner, and/or be patient.
We were a little of both recently, on Pok Pok NY’s first Saturday night, getting there 25 minutes or so before the doors opened for dinner, and being rewarded with the one of the last tables of the night’s first seating (and in the restaurant’s back “garden”!), and with a long, lovingly prepared meal.
Seriously, Chef Andy Ricker’s food at Brooklyn’s Pok Pok is pretty extraordinary. True, I’m no Thai food expert, but both of us at the table tore through four plates of explosively flavored, funky and fragrant Pok Pok dishes, plus two baskets of terrifically chewy, heat-reducing sticky rice.
Brooklyn’s Pok Pok menu is divided into four sections, but everything seems to be about the same size and price, and it’s all totally shareable. The first Pok Pok dish we received was the Phak Kad Jaw, apparently a classic Northern Thai comfort food, and definitely excellent, a bowl of smoky, spicy broth filled with bitter greens and sweet pork ribs.
The Pok Pok in Portland is most famous for its Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, and though you can get these beauties at Ricker’s still-newish Pok Pok Wing on the Lower East Side, if you haven’t yet tried, they are a must here: intensely flavored–garlic and palm sugar vie with the fish sauce, and you are the winner!–crispy and juicy, nicely complemented by a side of pickled veggies.
From the Aahaan Jaan Diaw, or, “one plate meals”, section of Pok Pok Brooklyn menu, we loved the Cha Ca “La Vong”, a generous helping of perfectly fried, moist and crunchy catfish, served with tangles of rice vermicelli, covered with bright greens like cilantro and mint.
And just to round off the four-for-four winners on the night, my companion and I made quick work of the Neua Naam Tok, a fiery flank steak “salad”, the tender meat marinated in fish sauce, lime and chili powder dressing, a pile of lemongrass, mint and cilantro balancing things out, the whole plate dusted with toasted rice powder.
All of the dishes at Pok Pok Brooklyn were unlike any we’ve had at other Thai restaurants in town, and whether that’s due to the “authenticity” of the offerings here (it seems very street-food-y, for whatever that’s worth) or Chef Andy Ricker’s creativity and skill in the kitchen, I don’t know.
What I do know is this: I’ve spent the last 24 hours thinking of my meal at Pok Pok Brooklyn–heck, even the water’s memorable, flavored with roasted pandanas leaf–and hope to get a crew together for another visit, and soon.
No reservations are accepted, and you can get more information on their hours, location, and even menus, on their website.
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