I wasn't expecting it, but Pok Pok NY lived up to the hype. Mind you, I didn't endure the de rigeur two hour wait to get a table. A VIP connection whittled it down to a half-hour. Unfair? Yes. But, that sort of magic only works once and now -- dammit -- I want to go back and I'll have to give up two hours of my life to do so. Still, I have to say that the food was spectacular. Rustic, flavorful and nothing like your typical neighborhood Thai joint, even if your go-to Thai joint is Sripraphai.
As any devoted New York City foodie knows, Pok Pok NY is a spin-off of the legendary Northern Thai restaurant Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon from James Beard Award-winning Chef Andy Ricker. Not to be outdone by Portlandia, with the advent of Pok Pok NY, Brooklyn has its own outpost at the edge of Carroll Gardens, past the BQE in a tiny storefront on Columbia Street.
Unsurprisingly, the Portlandia adage "put a bird on it" resounds at just about every table at the Brooklyn location, with an order of Pok Pok's infamous Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. But, the menu offers so much more by way of delights, from Yam Makheua Yao, a delectable smoky char-grilled eggplant salad sprinkled with hard-boiled eggs, shallots and dark toasted slivers of garlic; to Cha Ca "La Vong," a wholly satisfying dish of catfish sauteed in bright yellow tumeric-infused oil with cilantro and dill, served on rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint, cilantro and fermented fish sauce.
Other favorites at our table included the Sai Ua Samun Phrai, pictured above, featuring Chiang Mai sausage with herbs, aromatics and Burmese curry powder, served with steamed veggies, a smattering of fried pork rinds and a mound of addictive Thai green chili dip called Naam Phrik Num; as well as Kaeng Hung Leh, a clay pot filled with a fragrant -- almost bewitchingly sweet -- stew of pork belly and pork shoulder with ginger, palm sugar, tumeric, tamarind, curry and pickled garlic.
All in all, it was a triumph of a meal.
Of course, now I want to try the rest of the menu.
Let's see if I can hold off for a few months to see if the waits get shorter. Then again, considering how good the food is, resistance might be futile. I may need to resign myself to giving my name and number to the hostess and meandering over to B61 or MikNic for a few drinks while I wait. Besides, have a strange feeling that I'll run into a number of Pok Pok NY fans at the bar.