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Pok Pok Wing – Delicious New Thai Chicken Wing and Other Thai Specialties in the Lower Eastside

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**For full pic and post**: http://www.lauhound.com/2012/01/pok-p...

Pok Pok Wing is the new restaurant opened up by Andy Ricker, who runs a well-known Thai restaurant in Portland. I didn’t actually know very much about him or his restaurant other than they are from Portland. I did a little research and this NYT article has a decent amount of information about him, which you can see by clicking here (http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/...). Pok pok apparently is the stone mortar, which they use to grind various ingredients.

The restaurant is located in the old Baohaus space on Rivington. It’s tiny and they didn’t change too much except the pictures on the wall, which are of various Thai record covers and ads. You can see what it looks like on their website (http://pokpokwing.com/index.php?id=139). I’ve only been getting take-out since I’d rather eat it at my place than at the restaurant, but everyone seems nice and surprisingly I think most of the staff is Thai.

On to the food:
- Ike’s Wings (ordered spicy): These are deep fried whole chicken wings marinated in fish sauce, garlic and sugar. When I say whole chicken wings I literally mean that as they are much bigger than the normal chicken wings you get when you order buffalo wings. They are nicely crispy on the outside, but not overly crispy or fried. The meat is tender and the seasoning is sweet and spicy at the same time and you can definitely taste the garlic. They remind me of Korean chicken wings a little bit and I couldn’t decide if I like them better or not. I do think I can probably eat more of them than Korean chicken wings which taste awesome at first, but I get sick of them after like three or four. I thought these were very good overall and comparable or better than any of the other “Asian” chicken wings out there. I definitely recommend ordering them spicy. 8.5/10
- Papaya Pok Pok (added salted black crab, Isaan style with pla ra and dry chilis): This is som tum, which is a papaya green salad with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, lime juice, tamarind, fish sauce, garlic, palm sugar, dried shrimps, peanuts, salted black crab, pla ra (fermented fish sauce) and dry chilis. The version here is basically the traditional version with nothing particularly different about it, which is fine by me since it’s one of my favorite Thai dishes. It was a little more on the sour and tangy side compared to most versions I’ve had and it was actually surprisingly quite spicy which I was pleased with as I was expecting them to dumb it down due to the neighborhood and crowd, I wouldn’t say it’s Thai spicy, but it’s way spicier than most Americans would want. I thought it was pretty decent, but I don’t think it’s as good as the better versions I’ve had in NY at places like Zabb Elee (http://www.lauhound.com/2011/05/zabb-...). 7.5/10
- Khao Man Som Tom: This is a combination with som tum (green papaya salad) served with coconut rice topped with sweet shredded pork that has been cooked in palm sugar and black soy sauce topped with fried shallots and cilantro. The som tum didn’t have the salted crab, pla ra and dried chilis, which meant it was lighter in flavor and much less spicy than the other version I had. I would ask them to make it spicier next time. The coconut rice was quite nice, it was fluffy and had good coconut flavor. I was surprised at how good it tasted. The pork was nicely tender and had good flavor. However, it was a bit too sweet if it was a little less sweet it would’ve gone from good to really good. I really liked the fried shallots on top of it. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I wish the pork was a little less sweet. 8/10 (7/10 for som tum, 7.75/10 for the pork and 8.25/10 for the coconut rice
)- Pok Pok Som Tum Drinking Vinegars: This was various fruit flavored vinegars that are mixed with soda water. They had tamarind, honey, apple and pomegranate favors. These drinks were quite interesting as I’ve never really had anything like this. I tried the tamarind and the pomegranate. The vinegar is both sweet and sour, but not super sweet or sour. The tamarind was more sour and the pomegranate was more sweet. It went really well with the soda water. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I really liked it and found myself wanting more after I finished the drink. I definitely recommend trying one of these. 8.5/10

Overall, I like this place and it’s definitely a great addition to the neighborhood.

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Pok Pok Wing
137 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

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  1. hi Lau...thanks for the report...i'd been waiting for this place to open...when i read earlier that the Manhattan location was going to be wings-specific and the Brooklyn one was going to be the main Chiang Mai cuisine branch, i was a bit disappointed...but as long as they make their somdam w/ pla ra i'm sure i'll be at least somewhat happy...

    A few questions: how broad is their menu besides the dishes you mentioned? (what else do they serve?)...what's the inside like? -- it sounds small, but can it be a comfy light dinner spot, or should it be considered mainly takeout?...is it BYOB?...

    I'll surely try it soon...cheers...

    7 Replies
    1. re: Simon

      so their menu is pretty limited i basically tried everything on it, if you go to their website you can see the whole menu

      you can also see the interior on the website, its very small just like baohaus was. it's mainly either a quick sit down meal or take out, its not like a lounge-y hang out dinner type place

      i'm not sure if its BYOB or not since I just get the stuff to go since I live fairly close to here

      1. re: Lau

        thanks...i just looked at it online...i'm a bit disappointed, as i'd been excited about the idea of a larger-menu Chiang Mai-cuisine place in Manhattan...i'll definitely go there and try the wings at the some point, but i wish they'd at least offered regular N. Thai chicken options (a la the hallowed "SP Chicken" restaurant in Chiang Mai), as just-wings seems a bit limited and somewhat gimmicky...

        1. re: Simon

          if you go there you'll find that the space is not the right space for a larger full restaurant type menu, i think they're doing the right thing with that space. it'd be a logistical nightmare trying to have a full restaurants menu given the size of the kitchen and the sapce.

          i'll be curious to try his full restaurant if it ends up opening up in bk

          1. re: Simon

            When I went they said they were planning a full menu in Brooklyn, but the Rivington St space has a very limited menu. Got the papaya salad (which was at the upper limit of my spice tolerance, and quite good) and wings (delicious fishy/garlicky/crispy/savory/sweet). My one Pok Pok trip in Portland years ago was amazing, and memorable; I'm very excited to have them here, and to have more on the way.

            1. re: rose water

              how did it compare to the portland one? (although i know the menu here is way more limited)

              1. re: Lau

                I haven't been to Pok Pok in about 6 months, but from what I recall the wings are exactly the same. Quality at PPW is right up there, and the preparations are identical. Other than the wings, the menu is completely different so it'd be tough to compare (not sure if the other dishes at PPW are on the original menu or not). The drinking vinegars are, I think, smaller at PPW as they're served in a plastic cup instead of a glass. I believe they also have more (and slightly more interesting) drink flavors at Pok Pok as well, although PPW's taste the same as the original.

                The wings are delicious. They're salty and addictive and it's a pretty large portion, so I'd recommend splitting with someone and ordering another dish as your main. Haven't tried anything else at PPW aside from the coconut rice, so can't make recs.

                1. re: crsin

                  ah ok interesting, i was just curious if it was the same quality etc as the portland one

      2. Cool, thanks for the report. I dined at Pok Pok in Portland last year and had the wings and lots of other stuff and liked it. Everything was really heavy and strong flavored though- some real sweet, some real sour, etc. So it sounds like they are sticking to form here. I'm looking forward to checking this out for a late night snack though. I like that som tom are part of that menu as I often crave it after I've been a drinkin'.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Silverjay

          yah they generally had things fairly strongly flavored as you said

          this is definitely good drinking food, i think its open until midnight so you can get something on the late side

          1. re: Lau

            I hope they extend their hours. In that neighborhood, being open till somewhere between 2 and 4 A.M. - especially on weekends - is a plus.

            1. re: Pan

              yah they would probably do well late night

        2. I ate here this weekend and had some mixed thoughts. i got the wing combo with the papaya salad and rice and subbed coconut rice for sticky and added the black crab to the papaya. The wings were not larger than normal. They were just left whole with the three parts of the wing. They actually were smaller than you normally get. The drumette (one bone part of the wing) was strangely very small while the other parts of the wing were normal sized. Not a problem for me as I prefer the wingette and enjoy the tip. Still a bit off. The wings themselves were decent if slightly overcooked. The sauce was a nice mix of salty, sweet and spicy with a good bit of garlic. The papaya salad was as Lau reports, surprisingly spicy but not the best I had. The rice was good with a subtle coconut flavor.

          This is good drinking food but not really a revelation.

          5 Replies
          1. re: MVNYC

            well what i meant was that they kept all three parts of the chicken wing together, which I have never seen in the US ever, therefore it's much bigger than you would get if you ordered say a buffalo wing which would be since that is only one part.

            Sounds like they may have some inconsistency issues if you thought they were overcooked as they were cooked perfectly when i had them.

            1. re: Lau

              The reason they were overcooked was because of the strange size of the drumette. Since it was so small it overcooked while the other parts were done perfectly. I could have been given a weird batch as the wings in your photo appear to be normally proportioned.

              1. re: MVNYC

                yah it sounds like maybe it was a mutant chicken? the ones i had were normal sized and i didn't find anything weird about them size wise

                1. re: Lau

                  It was weird, all of the wings served to me had little overcooked nubs as drumettes.

                  1. re: MVNYC

                    that is strange, ill go try it again and see if there is anything weird about it

          2. For the folks who have been - how are they cooking the wings? when the space was baohaus there were no hoods or ranges (let alone fryers) because Eddie was using induction plates and steam ovens. im interested in trying them but until i get there i thought id ask about the set up (and the full restaurant on columbia street will be closer to me anyway, so i may wait for the full monte).

            1. I've eaten here twice in the past week, and it's exactly as you say. The wings, while tasty, get boring after a while; I'm glad I got the combo when I ordered them. The Khao Man Som Tom was very good, still a bit on the too-sweet side, and I did wish the som tum, though it was pretty spicy, was spicier still. I'll get that again next time, and I'll have to try one of the drinking vinegars (the $4 price tag on these kind of put me off a bit).

              On a funny note: I love the Thai LP jackets that line the walls; I sent photos of them to a Thai friend of mine who's an audio mastering engineer based in Bangkok. It turns out that he might soon be doing digital remasters of some of them!

              4 Replies
              1. re: howdini

                btw with the som tom, there is an option to make it spicy and to add salted black crab, Isaan style with pla ra and dry chilis. You need to ask them to do that if you want it to be spicy b/c the regular som tom while somewhat spicy is not that spicy.

                Also interesting about it being sweet b/c i had the exact opposite experience where it was quite sour and tangy much more so than other versions ive had.

                1. re: Lau

                  Ah. I thought that because I ordered the wings spicy, they'd make the som tum spicier. I'll definitely order it with the crab and chilies next time.

                  1. re: howdini

                    yah i think you need to specifically ask for that