Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pok Pok/Pix

I'd been hearing about Pok Pok for a while now, but it's way down in SE, and I hadn't yet found the right time to get down there. When the opportunity presented itself in the form of an invitation from Miss Tasty, I knew it was sign from the gods that mustn't be ignored. In preparation for my visit, I did a little homework...

The Facts-

  1. Owned by Andy Ricker, former sous chef at Zefiro, and bass player for local band The Quags.
  2. Pok Pok focuses on the cuisine of north and northeast Thailand (esp the Chaing Mai valley), whereas most Thai places in Portland focus on the more Chinese influenced cuisine of central Thailand.
  3. The food at Pok Pok is 'modeled' after street food you might find in Thailand.
  4. Andy has visited the Thailand (especial the Isaan region and the Chaing Mai Valley) every year for nearly a decade.
  5. It's pretty much a take-out cart. There are a few tables, 3 or so are covered, another 4 are uncovered.
  6. Pok Pok is named for the sound of a mortar and pastle clanking together.

So, I get there first, followed shortly by Miss Tasty, and then, a touch later, by Smooth Melon...

Here's what we got (items and descriptions from Portland Food and Drink dot com)...

  1. Kai Yaang - Charcoal rotisserie roasted game bird stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, served with a spicy sweet and sour dipping sauce.
  2. Khao Soi Kai - Chiang Mai-style chicken noodles in a milk coconut soup topped with crispy yellow noodles, shallots, pickled mustard greens and served with a hot chili paste.
  3. Khao Man Som Tam - Papaya Pok Pok served with steamed coconut rice, sweet shredded pork and fried shallots.
  4. A special dessert, whose name is escaping me right now, but consisted of mango, rice, and coconut milk
  5. Cha Manao - Thai iced tea with fresh lime juice

Wow! What else can you say. As has been reported above, this is unlike most Thai in town. Not too spicy, certainly no curries, stir fry, or Pad Thai. Simple, honest, good food.

The Kai Yaang was great. We got a half bird (whole bird also available). The skin was crispy and flavorful (I like skin. Anyone remember picking off and eating crispy, charred, spicy lamb skin in the early days of Bastille Day?). We used out hands to break the game bird up into bite sized chunks, then dipped the chunks into the sauce. The flavor and aroma of lemongrass was present and lovely on the meat itself. Outstanding. And, as good as it was, we all agreed that this was the least of the dishes!

Khao Soi Kai was just as described, although we also added some fresh cilantro and lime juice. We tried it first with no hot chili paste and it was fantastic. We ate half the bowl like that. We then added half of the small container of chili paste for a bit of heat. Half was plenty... This was Smooth Melon's favorite of the 3 main courses.

Khao Man Som Tam was the favorite of both Miss Tasty and myself. Great shredded pork, slightly sweet, somewhat caramelized, with a plate of sticky rice and that fantastic Papaya salad (I didn't even mind the dried shrimp). I had considered buying another order of this to take home with me as a snack, but they closed up shop as we were finishing our food. This dish was magnificent.

The dessert was good. A half mango at it's optimal ripeness with sticky rice and coconut milk. Not too sweet, just right, and VERY tasty. The interplay of the mango, rice, and coconut was mesmerizing. But, we agreed this wasn't enough like a real dessert so we headed down to Pix afterwards (see 3 paragraphs down...)

The Thai iced teas were a revelation. No cream, only slightly sweet, with fresh lime juice. Very refreshing. Just the right thing to accompany the food.

Overall, Pok Pok is not to be missed. If you haven't been, you MUST go (and when you do, call me, I can't wait to go again...)

Smooth Melon, Miss Tasty, and I then strolled the 3 or 4 blocks down to Pix, where I hadn't been since last summer (and I still haven't been to their new location in N. Portland. Criminal!). We grab a table after glancing at the cases. Here's what we consumed...

  1. Tart Citron ~ A French classic-luscious lemon curd in a crisp, buttery pate sucree (damn blogger for not allowing accents!) shell. (Hungry T's order)
  2. Queen of Sheba Truffle Cake ~ Moist chocolate almond cake with bittersweet chocolate center. Warm slightly for molten chocolate center. (Smooth Melon's order)
  3. Coconut chocolate ice cream in a cone with a passion fruit macaroon on the side (Miss Tasty's order)
  4. Moscato d'Asti (for T)
  5. Port (for SM)

All were great. The Moscato was a little less than fresh, which I had expected. Not flat, just not fresh. It happens sometimes with Moscato by the glass. I considered asking how fresh the bottle was, but opted not to.

Miss Tasty's macaroon was delightful, and I knew they made rose macaroons too, so I tried to order one, but they had just sold out. I got a grapefruit one instead, and it just didn't live up to the reality of the passion fruit or the promise of the rose. Live and learn, I guess.

All in all, a great night for food in Portland. And the weather held up all night too. Clear and crisp. Lovely.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the PokPok review T, the Gardener and I will be taking it in soon; our friendly local NoPo Thai cart, Pbongs, is unfortunately the opposite of what you just described;

Hungry T said...

Barrister? Thanks for the comment. Where is Pbongs? Even though it sounds like its not so good, I'd still be interested in checking it out... We should get together soon!