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

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  • Lau Jan 23, 2012 06:11 PM
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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

                    1. re: Lau

                      Got it, thanks!

              2. I dunno man. We went last night and got the papaya salad and a full order of the wings, spicy. The papaya salad was great -- tangy, sour, spicy. The wings were decidedly meh. My husband returned the wings to the counter because the chicken tasted quite dry. The lady at the counter was lovely and made us a new order, but it didn't taste better. The sauce on the outside is just ok (it made me lust for some mad for chicken) and the chicken wasn't moist. Bummer.

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

                3 Replies
                1. re: chompchomp

                  sorry u didnt like it

                  thats weird re: the dry meat, when i went they were very tender, i think i prefer their wings sauce / flavoringto mad about chicken but that maybe just a personal taste thing

                  1. re: chompchomp

                    totally not my experience, chompchomp, interesting. i loved the sauce on the wings, and thought the chicken was quite good. the papaya salad was at the upper limit of my spice tolerance. given that i'm allergic to shrimp, they made mine vegetarian (didn't want to use the shrimpy mortar and pestle) and i missed the savory funk the fish sauce would've added.

                    1. re: rose water

                      It was a drag! I love chicken wings. I love Thai food. If they were good, I'd be there on the regular.

                  2. Pok Pok is the pounding sound of the mortar and pestle... Andy's recipe for wings is available at Food and Wine. Easy to make and delish.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Maggie19

                      SALTY, EXPENSIVE

                      1. re: i8NYC

                        Salty, yes...but all wings are salty. It's kind of their nature. Let alone wings whose sauce is based on fish sauce. I don't find them unbalanced, just something you've gotta eat in moderation before it gets a bit overwhelming.

                        Either way, you've gotta like salty to like PPW, and steer clear those of you with blood pressure/cardiac issues.

                      2. re: Maggie19

                        I replicated the wings fairly well at home, very easy to do if you know how to fry. The only issue is my apt smelled like fried chicken and fish sauce for a few days.

                      3. I've been to Pok Pok in Portland and just went to Pok Pok Wing on Rivington in NYC this past weekend. I agree with what most have said - the wings are the same at both places and yes, you do get tired of eating them after 3 or 4. I ordered the 6 wings. I wish I had ordered the 3 wing portion with the salad. Turns out I did get a salad with the 6 wing order. I'm not sure what was in the salad other than the carrot strips - something crunchy like a radish but much milder. Attaching a photo-perhaps you can identify the long, white crunchy bits. Dressing was light and vinegary - went well with the wings. I thought the wings were on the dry side but I didn't care. I loved them. I didn't order the wings spicy but wish I had. They were more sweet than anything. I would definitely go there again.
                        One other thing - they have a large carafe of water in the restaurant. It's not plain water, however. Can you please tell me what they put in the water? I didn't note the name and I don't live in the area.

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

                         
                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ZPrice

                          yah i couldn't figure out what those were either, initially i thought it was daikon (radish), but it wasn't. The wings are definitely better spicy

                          it wasn't the tasting vinegars was it?

                          1. re: ZPrice

                            Hm, those wings look significantly less sauced than they were before--or is it just the lighting?

                            Long white crunchy=jicama? Can't tell by pic.

                            1. re: crsin

                              it kind of looked like jicama, but it wasn't jicama

                            2. re: ZPrice

                              They put pandan leaves in the water, it's an Asian leaf that is often used to flavor desserts and drinks. First time I've seen it in water! I found it took a little getting used to. But I liked it.

                              I thought the white stuff in the salad was pickled daikon, but I must be wrong. Not sure what it could be then. Jicama?

                              1. re: chowmania

                                I thought it was daikon or some other mild radish as well.

                            3. so i re-tried the wings tonight after some people said they were on the dry side or were small.

                              The flavoring on them was the same as before, but they were definitely a bit smaller and drier than when i originally wrote this post, so it seems as if people were right about this issue. That said I still liked them and thought they were tasty. If I were to re-rate them for today's meal, I'd probably say they were and 8 out of 10

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Lau

                                I was just there tonight, and I noticed the size change as well - used to be the wings were crazy meaty, like they had the chickens doing bicep curls or something. Definately smaller - still a fair amount of meat on them, but nothing like they were when they first opened. Kind of a bummer - the wings were a steal for the portion size, now they're more just decent.

                                As to the mystery white thing issue: I'm 90% sure it's just mild daikon, the pickling takes away some of the bite. 90% sure it's not jicama, either - the texture was a little too floppy.

                                1. re: sgordon

                                  yah exactly thats why i as so surprised when people said they were small

                              2. I went recently (couple weekends ago), and wasn't blown away by the wings. They were tasty enough, but nothing to rave about (and yes, a little small, considering it included the drummette). I did like the spice level.

                                However, they had a pork chop sandwich special that was really delicious. Super simple - just a grilled pork chop on a portuguese roll, maybe salt and pepper, but SO juicy and flavorful. If they offer this special again, I would take that over the wings. My apologies that I have no idea what this was called. It was just written on a piece of paper and taped on the cash register.

                                I also really liked the drinking vinegar (got tamarind), but it was small and overpriced IMHO for a beverage at a take out place. If it were $2, I'd come in and get one all the time, but I think it was $4.

                                1. After reading more buzz on Ike's Wings, I'd like to try'em, but wondering....marinated AND tossed with fish sauce...are these rascals fishy at all?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                    more savory than fishy, but if you save them to eat later, the fishiness gets more prominent.

                                    1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                      they're not fishy at all

                                      also depending on the fish sauce, fish sauce may not be even remotely fishy (i'm not sure exactly what fish sauce they use at pok pok). Like if you go to a vietnamese restaurant the orange sweet sauce they give you is actually fish sauce, but its not even remotely fishy. most people dont even realize its fish sauce (assuming they dont know much about viet food)

                                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                        I'm sure It's been in dishes I've had at my local places, but to paraphrase Rumsfeld, I didn't know that I didn't know (and happy that way!)

                                        Thanks Urban Hounds!

                                      2. So has anybody had the chance to try the new pad thai menu? Sad to see the wings go, but excited to try Ricker's version of phat thai.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: crsin

                                          oh they killed the wings? interesting...ill go try it soon

                                          1. re: Lau

                                            Not just the wings, but the entire menu starting last week. According to the original Eater article, Ricker said demand too high and space too small to handle the wings, so a larger wing spot in Manhattan is in the works. In the meantime, PPW is now Pok Pok Phat Thai, focused largely on pad thai.

                                            Menu found here http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/08/...

                                            1. re: crsin

                                              ah interesting, i havent been a few months...ill give it a whirl in the next couple of weeks

                                          2. re: crsin

                                            I went in their first week. The phat thai (pad thai) was fantastic, but I was disappointed to see the menu change so drastically. I was a massive fan of their papaya salad and the sweet pork that they did, and I especially loved that the old Pok Pok Wing had 3 things on the menu but they were three very different things. Now there are more things on the menu, but they're all variants on a theme.

                                            But, as I said, the phat thai was fantastic. It's just that I don't always feel like it.