I’m braced for a substantial lineup at *Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s legendary, James Beard Foundation-award-winning Portland restaurant. But when I arrive on a sultry mid-afternoon, there are lots of empty tables, and I’m whisked straight into the air-conditioned bar. There’s not a lot of character here. The emphasis is squarely on the amazing food.
Pok Pok features innovative, northern and northeastern Thailand dishes such as smoky charcoal grilled eggplant salad, sweet pork belly curry and lemongrass-stuffed game hen, with an average price of around $14. But I take a more conventional route with the signature Vietnamese-style hot wings, marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried and tossed with garlic, more fish sauce and my choice of spicy chile flakes. To say they’re the best chicken wings I’ve ever had would do them an injustice. They’re enormous (who knew chickens had such big wings?)—sweet and spicy, meaty and messy. I go through nearly a napkin for each of the six wings, then mop up with a couple of wet naps. A spoon and a fork are recommended for this style of Thai food, but in this case I’m all hands.
On a side note, a look at Pok Pok’s menu opens up an unfamiliar, fantastic world of Thai cuisine. You won’t find pad thai, green curry or tom kha soup here. That’s because those dishes are all part of the southern Thai offerings that dominate Thai menus pandering to the North American masses. Pok Pok and its offshoots are Andy Ricker’s attempts to bring authentic northern and northeastern Thai cuisine to U.S. palates.
Here’s hoping it becomes a more widespread trend. Because there is more to Thai than pad thai.
3226 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon
Daily 11:30 am-10 pm