Monthly Archives: February 2014

Destination Pok Pok – well, sort of….

For several years now I have been reading and hearing about the Thai food phenomena by Andy Richter called Pok Pok.  Pok Pok started in Portland OR and has expanded not only to multiple locations in that city but also to the other coast in New York City.  As my readers know, I travel to Portland quite often and live near New York City.  So why is it that every attempt I make to eat at this restaurant ends up in disappointment?
I have tried several times to go to the original, once for the one in Brooklyn and twice to get to Pok Pok Phat Thai off Delancey.  For one reason or another, I have not yet had the pleasure of tasting this famed food.  On a recent trip to Portland, I made yet another attempt.  I had made plans for lunch with a co-worker and when she asked me where I’d like to go, I immediately suggested Pok Pok which is a short drive from my company office.  The day arrived and I could barely focus on my morning meetings due to the excitement of finally getting there.  We parked the car and walked towards the restaurant while my co-worker raved about how great the food is.  As we walked to the entrance, lo and behold, they were closed on that day and yet again I was not meant to eat here.  The disappointment was most definitely visible on my face.
It wasn’t a complete waste though because Andy Richter has a whole slew of restaurants in that area and we were directed towared Sen Yai Noodles which serves some of the items as Pok Pok but largely specializes in Noodle Bowls.  It’s a tiny little hole in the wall place with fast food style tables and chairs.  We were seated promptly and the server took the time to explain their menu upon hearing I was a newbie.  Though I’ve found that restaurant service, in general, in Portland to be far superior to the East coast.  The special that day was Laksa which is a Singaporean spicy soup which I was tempted to order along with several of the noodle dishes.  But I wanted to taste the Thai food that Andy Richter had made famous and if I was not going to have the chance to eat it at Pok Pok, I would settle to eat it at its offshoot.
And so I ordered the Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao – minced chicken with long beans, kaphrao basil, onion, black soy, fish sauce and dried red Thai chilies served over jasmine rice with a crispy fried farm egg.  My mouth was watering as I sat and smelled the aromas from the kitchen and looked at other patrons’ food.  When my plate arrived, I asked how I should eat it and was told that it is best to mix the egg into the chicken to produce a thick gravy to be eaten with the rice.  All I can say is it was spicy, tangy, rich from the egg, and absolutely delicious.  The heat had not been toned down for the American palate but one has the option to not eat the dried red chilies.  I chose to throw caution to the wind and ate them anyway with lots and lots of water to accompany.  I had no trouble at all finishing my rather large portion of food.  In fact I probably could have eaten another plateful.  It was that good!!!!

Well, my mission to get to Pok Pok one day will continue but Sen Yai Noodles certainly provided a more than satisfactory substitute to quench my craving for a brief time.  I will get to the original one day soon and hopefully can get to Whiskey Soda Lounge (another Pok Pok offshoot across the street) beforehand for what I am told is the best gin & tonic ever.
By the way, Pok Pok PDX does not serve Phat Thai (or Pad Thai as some may know it) as a regular menu item.  It is served only in limited quatities at 10pm until it runs out.  It’s been touted as some of the best around.

If you’ve been to any of the Pok Pok locations, I would love to get your thoughts on this eatery. 
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