Dec 2013

Pok Pok – Portland

Pok Pok - Portland

As soon as the airplane landed on Portland soil, Nastassia and I hailed a cab and high-tailed it to Pok Pok. Even on this unseasonably wet and chilly night, the crowds were out in full force for Chef Andy Ricker’s critically acclaimed Thai fare; we were in for an hour-plus long wait.

Pok Pok - Portland

Opened in 2005, Pok Pok specializes in northern Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine, serving dishes that that are typically found in pubs, homes, and on the streets, according to the restaurant’s website. “We do not make fusion food here; everything has been researched, eaten, and/or prepared in the country of its origin prior to being put on the Pok Pok menu.”

Pok Pok - Portland

Once we were finally seated, Nastassia and I landed a table in the covered portion of the restaurant. It would’ve been a bone-chilling feast otherwise! Fun fact: The building in which Pok Pok is housed was the chef’s former residence.

Pok Pok - Portland

First up, an order of “Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings” ($14), one of Pok Pok’s most storied dishes. Marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, then tossed in more fish sauce and fried garlic, they tasted as awesome as I had imagined all these years. Sticky, sweet, and salty, these wings had it all.

Pok Pok - Portland

The second dish to arrive was the “Sai Ua Samun Phrai” ($14), charcoal-grilled Chiang Mai sausage scented with herbs, aromatics, and Burmese curry powder. The link was served with naam phrik num (spicy green chile dip), khaep muu (Thai pork rinds), and steamed pumpkin slices. We ordered a side of sticky rice to pair with it as well.

The galangal-laced sausage paired beautifully with every element on the plate, but I loved it most with a swipe of the smokey and spicy naam phrik num. 

Pok Pok - Portland

The “Papaya Pok Pok” ($12), green papaya salad with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, lime juice, tamarind, fish sauce, garlic, peanuts, and salted black crab, was the lone miss for Nastassia and me, mostly because it was too damn spicy.

We can handle some serious heat, but this preparation was overwhelming for our palates. It would’ve been nice if our waitress had asked us what spice level we desired like the ladies in Thaitown. Proceed with caution.

Pok Pok - Portland

Our final dish was the “Kaeng Hung Leh” ($14), a sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry made with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, Burmese curry powder, and pickled garlic. This Chiang Mai classic with Burmese origins was simply divine; brimming with fork-tender pork belly and layers of complexity. It tasted great straight up or ladled over sticky rice.

Even with the unfortunately inedible papaya salad, Nastassia and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Pok Pok. The cooking was as great as we had anticipated, while the surroundings felt like one of a kind. The Astronomer is jonesing for a taste of Ike’s wings, so I’ll certainly be back for more the next time I’m in PDX.

Pok Pok
3226 SE Division Street
Portland, OR 97202
Phone: 503-232-1387

One year ago: {swoon} “The Chronic” at Mom’s Burgers
Two years ago: Peppermint Sandwich Cookies with Candy Cane Bits (or Homemade Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s)
Three years ago: Sweet Lady Jane – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
Four years ago: Porto’s Bakery – Los Angeles (Glendale)
Five years ago: Pizzeria Mozza – Los Angeles (Hollywood)
Six years ago: Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho
Seven years ago: Brasserie Perrier – Philadelphia

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9 thoughts on “Pok Pok – Portland

  1. Nick and I loved Pok Pok while we were there. We went at 5:30pm and there was no wait. We’d also like to go back!

  2. Not sure if we were there on an off day, but the food really was less than stellar when compared to what we have had here in Cali. We got the Papaya salad (which definitely was not spicy enough), wings, and Khao Soi. Everything was just meh… in fact the rendition of the wings in and around little Saigon are comparable if not better (especially at quan nhau) than what we had at Pok Pok… 🙁

  3. Anh – So bummed to hear about your less than wonderful Pok Pok meal. Every restaurant has it’s off days, I guess! On to happier news, can you recommend a great quan nhau for those wings in Lil Saigon? I need more of those in my life!

  4. Two places in Garden Grove serve up reliably good do nhau. One of them being the ever popular Cafe Artist, and the other being Quan Gio. These places tend to be packed with smokers galore in the evening so best to go around lunch time or in the early afternoon if you’d like some clean air space to breathe. Quan Gio is a newer establishment, doesn’t have great ratings on the interwebs, but really does have some solid dishes. Among them I’m especially fond of the chan ga nuong (grilled chicken feet), Goi xoai muc nuong (green mango and grilled squid salad), the chicken wings, gio heo nuong (grilled pork leg), and the grilled scallops with scallion oil and peanuts is pretty tasty too. In general, the grilled dishes here are good bets. As for Artist, they have tasty dishes all around, pick whatever you fancy and it should be quite tasty. Note that Artist is a bit grittier and well, sticky tables is kinda the norm there… Have fun!

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