Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pok Pok, take me back to Chiang Mai via PDX

Located about 5 miles from Portland City Center in the Hawthorne District is Pok Pok. At the far edge of Portland's new dining scene, this is a must on your next trip to the Pacific Northwest. Andy Ricker, the much heralded chef, took home a James Beard Award in 2011 and his streetshop style eatery was recently named one of the top 20 most inflential restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine. You might have also seen it on The Food Network or Travel Channel or read about it in the New York Times. We actually took a bike from City Center, which certainly helped to work up our appetite, and within about 30 mins arrived at Pok Pok. This place doesn't have much curb presence, so if you weren't paying attention just look for the long line of patrons out front, it'll be a sure give away.

This decor looks like a Thai street side restaurant with it's open tables, steel grate roof, clear plastic tarp windows, stainless steel table tops, and chalk board menu. Of course, that's part of the charm to be transported back to Thailand. We arrived at 12:30pm and were seated within about 5 mins in the covered front area; there's also any upstairs outdoor deck, and counter stalls along the entrance corridor. Come early, else expect a wait because by the time we left at 1:30pm, the wait was a good 45 mins.

The menu is packed full of Thai street food classics with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, in additon to wonderful southeast Asian inspired cocktails with basils, limes, Thai chilis, mango, jackfruit, etc. We asked our waitress for recommendations since everything looked so appetizing. She suggested a salad, noodle soup, and dessert for us to share; it did not dissappoint.

Khao Soi - a Chiang Mai street food favorite of curry flat noodle soup with tofu, squash, cilantro, and fried chickpea noodles. It came our table piping hot in a large bowl with a serving ladle and two small eating bowls. The perfect dish for this overcast rainy Portland day. This Northern Thai dish had strong flavor influences from the Burmese and Chinese Muslims. The tofu was lightly stir-fried along with the squash, for a wonderful earthy balance. The noodles were cooked well and did not overpower the dish. This was a soup with noodles and not the other way around. But the real star was the lightly spiced soup made with a gentle mix of coconut milk and thai chili that was on par with anything we'd tasted in Thailand. In one sentence, Sheila and I felt this was the best single dish of food we've had in many years.

Yam Samun Phrai - a Northern Thai herbal salad of carrot, turmeric, parsnip, betal leaf, basil, lime leaf, cashews, ginger, fried shallots, and Thai chilis in a mild coconut milk dressing. This salad packed some heat but was actually a good counter balance to the warm soup. The flavors were a mix or both sour and sweet which you typically see in Thai cooking. My only suggestion would have been to have some more shallots and cashews for a bit more crunch. Nevertheless we had not issues finishing the dish.

Thai Ice Cream Sandwich - three small scoops of coconut jackfruit ice cream over sticky rice drizzles with chocolate sauce and shaved almonds served on top of a Chinese bun. As you could expect this was a heavy dessert, but oh so good. The ice cream tasted naturally sweetened, the shaved almonds proved a nice crunch, and the sticky rice was could perfectly. The bun, although airy to the taste, was cut a bit too thick for me. We ate about two-thirds and then succumb to food coma.

This place did live up to the hype, it's the most authentic Thai meal we've had outside of Thailand. The quality of ingredients, expertly prepared dishes, and authentic dining experience make Pok Pok a true hit. I give it a resounding 9 out of 10 overall.

No comments:

Post a Comment