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Pok Pok NY...good, not great

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Wife and I tried the new Pok Pok NY on Columbia Street last night and felt it was a bit uneven. We arrived about 20 minutes before they opened at 6PM and there was already a pretty big line ahead of us. We wound up being the last to get a table with the initial seating and I already heard the hostess talking about a 1.5-2 hour wait for the rest of the line out front. Service was quick but uneven, in at least 2 or 3 instances they brought someone else's food to our table and asked if it was for us. We sat in the backyard area and it's pretty cramped, which I'm fine with for a casual restaurant like this, but at least have your servers know who ordered what.

We started with the wings which had an incredibly tasty fish sauce. They were very good but after eating 3 or 4 found the taste of the sauce almost overbearing. I definitely enjoyed them, I just don't think I could eat a full order. We shared 2 other dishes: I ordered the Phak Kad Jaw, stewed mustard greens and pork ribs. The greens were tasty, the ribs were dry and OK. Wife ordered the clay pot Kung Op Wun Sen, with prawns and pork belly over bean thread noodles. Like the wings, this dish was incredibly tasty, but it was so overpowered with black pepper that even with sharing half and half between each other,neither of us could finish our half of this dish. The shrimp were great, the noodles were tasty, the black pepper was just too much.

Those 3 dishes and 1 beer came out to about $45 + tax + tip. We generally enjoyed the meal but I can't imagine waiting 2 hours for it on a Saturday night. The 2 waitresses we asked had absolutely no idea if they would be doing take out or delivery any time soon, which if the case we'd certainly try some other dishes. I know this place has been hyped-a-million and the Yelp reviews I read so far are just gushing. I'm happy to have it in the neighborhood, it will bring more foot traffic and the inevitable overflow will also help out other nearby bars and restaurants.

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  1. interesitng, im curious to try this place

    1. We went last night about 7PM. The indoors restaurant was filled, but there was space in the unheated but dry tent in the rear. We were comfortable, wearing our coats. The first thing one notices is that the menu is written in 8 point type, not great for people with older eyes; but that does allow them to list all the ingredients of their dishes which is great for our dietary limitations (no red meat or shellfish). We had the half bird with dipping sauces, the catfish salad and the brussel sprouts both with sticky rice. We did not specify spicing levels and the chili dipping sauce for the chicken was rather mild, but the catfish and brussel sprouts were adequately hot. The brussel sprouts were great, the other were good to very good. Plenty of food for $66 including tip with one beer and one cider. The beer choices were basically SEA. The dark Lao beer I had was pretty decent.

      All in all, this clearly is the best Thai food by far in Brooklyn, but it is far from revelatory and is much surpassed by the best of Queens.

      4 Replies
      1. re: bobjbkln

        I don't get over to Columbia Street very often, but I have to do an errand nearby via car. What is the parking like on Columbia Street? Also, for future reference, is the B61 bus the best way to get there from Park Slope? (Sorry, I know these are not food questions, but any input would be appreciated.)

        1. re: parkslopemama

          Hi parkslopemama,

          I can't speak for what it's like during the week since I've never been around that area at that time.

          On weekends during the day, however, parking is pretty easy so if you're doing lunch driving shouldn't be too bad.

          Hope this helps you out!

          Ciao,

          Glendale is hungry...

          1. re: parkslopemama

            Parking is fairly easy weekdays as well, you should find a space with a block or so. It's certainly worth the drive from PS. The B61 goes right past Pok Pok, but it's far from a direct ride as the route takes you south down to Fairway/Ikea land before going up to the northern end of Columbia St. where Pok Pok is. Far more direct by car.

            1. re: parkslopemama

              Even better, we ending up *biking* to Pok Pok. Only 15 minutes, straight across the Gowanus Canal! And we were seated in the patio immediately! Biked along the waterfront to DUMBO afterwards, saw Tall Ships, etc. Great night. "Khanom Jiin Naam Ngiew" was our favorite (Northern Thailand-style vermicelli in deeply savory broth w/pork ribs, minced beef, tomatoes, dried dawk ngiew, house-pickled mustard greens, etc.) The little "dok ngiew "were new to me! Also, I agree with EJC (below) that the cocktails are unusual and interesting.

          2. Weekend waits, if you don't arrive before 6p, are pretty bad. Our party of 6, arriving at 630p on a Friday, had a 2.5hr wait. While it wasn't a big deal for us, (we just went down to B61, had a few beers, and caught up with friends) I can see how it'd be a deterrent for others. However, last Thursday we showed up at 630p, and were immediately seated. It doesn't seem like the kind of place where you worry to much about other tables food coming out a few minutes before yours, or accidentally getting the wrong plate - but those mishaps seem to also have gotten better. We noticed that the water was always refilled this last time w/o us having to ask.

            Having worked through a lot of the menu, we seem to always order the catfish laap. It's really quite nice - great balance. The black salted crab addition to the papaya salad has serious heat. Unaware that it's solely a flavoring agent, and not meant to be eaten, I started sucking on the shells - what an endorphine rush of heat! The pork laap is a nice chopped collection of all parts of the pig - not just a standard gray ground pork. The chicken wings are a better version of korean fried chicken.
            Finally - the cocktail list. It deserves mentioning. While I'd prefer a great Mosel spatlese with my spicy food - some of these cocktails are unreal in flavor and creativity. The coconut milk ones are also great for the taming the spice.

            1 Reply
            1. re: EJC

              EJC, thanks for the review...catfish laab (laab pla duk, in Thai) is one of my fav dishes, so i'm looking forward to trying their version...cheers...

            2. The New York Times just gave Pok Pok 2 stars.

              http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/din...

              1. Two things bother me about the reception to Pok Pok NY:

                First is that virtually every professional reviewer I've read complains about the schlep to the restaurant, as if it were located in a space colony on Pluto. It's in a freaking residential neighborhood in Brooklyn, not Mars. This assumption that anyone who reads a review must live in Manhattan is grating. And I live in Manhattan.

                Second, I'm surprised by the lack of enthusiasm or interest that Pok Pok has generated on Chowhound. I agree completely that there are some execution issues, but PP offers dishes available nowhere else in the Tri-State area, that contain herbs and spices not used in any other restaurant in the Tri-State area, and this is due to the passion of Andy Ricker. I've never been to the Portland original, so I don't know if some of the inconsistency is due to the newness of the restaurant, or systemic problems. But so much that is offered is so good that it isn't even close which Thai restaurant in NY I'd go to for my first or last supper. At a recent dinner, one of the specials was a pork knuckle the size of two softballs and considerably tenderer. It couldn't have been homier or more comforting, despite the chilies and barrage of flavors.

                Despite the crowds and the schlep (for some), Pok Pok is a good thing for NY eating. And having spoken to Andy Ricker, I'm betting that it will improve, too.

                19 Replies
                1. re: Dave Feldman

                  I'm curious--what are some of the herbs and spices Pok Pok supposedly uses that not a single other restaurant in the tri-state area uses?

                  1. re: didactic katydid

                    Unfortunately, I was with a group of Thais, and the personal answers were in Thai. But I think this will give you some idea: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2012/0...

                    I know that when Lotus of Siam-NY opened, getting the same herbs as they had in Las Vegas was a serious problem. Not only did the markets in Queens and Manhattan Chinatown not have them, but neither did East Coast distributors. Some of the herbs at LOS are grown in the Chutimas' back yard, and according to Bill Chutima, many of them do not have an English name.

                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                      I think it hasn't gotten much play on chowhound because most (or some?) of us aren't willing/ready to spend 1-2 hours waiting for a table there. I live within walking distance of the place and am totally excited that it's here, but am waiting for the crowds to die down a little before I go. Have tried a couple of times, but it's always a 2-hour wait.

                      Rest assured that once I go, I will post my opinions on this board.

                      And yes, it's the herbs and the interesting dishes that excite me, living in a city where even holy basil isn't easy to find.

                      1. re: missmasala

                        ps.

                        Agree that the assumption that everyone reading reviews lives in Manhattan is grating, but the Columbia St neighborhood is a very long walk from the train, and those that don't live around here may not understand it's up-and-coming (or already arrived) hipness. It's a little like reviewing a restaurant that opened on Avenue D and 5th street in the mid-90s.

                        1. re: missmasala

                          It's about 2/3 of a mile from the Bergen St. F stop. Closer to a full mile from the various downtown Brooklyn subway stops. For some people that's a hike.

                          What's trickier is the relative deadness of Columbia St. It's not like Smith St. with multiple bars and restaurants. The other thing is that there's not a bunch of fall back restaurants on Columbia if you decide the wait is too long. That might deter some people.

                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                            Alma, Calexico, Bocca Lupo and La Vara are within a 10 minute walk. Actually the first two options are only about 3 minutes away. Also, I must say that B61 bar (below Alma) is a mighty fine drinking establishment. So if you're of a mind to go to Pok Pok, there are fall-backs and other bars close by.

                            Of course, having said that, I haven't gone to PPN myself. I'm also waiting for the crowds to subside a bit.

                            1. re: egit

                              I doubt if the NY Times review has helped with the crowds, unfortunately. Quite a number of subways will get you reasonably close to PPN. I usually take the 2 or 3 to Clark St. -- it's a pleasant walk, although too far for people with serious disabilities.

                              1. re: Dave Feldman

                                As per the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991, that's what this,

                                http://www.mta.info/nyct/paratran/gui...

                                is for. Yup, a person with a disability can use this service to get to and from a restaurant if he or she is eligible and the trip meets the criteria specific to the person's disability.

                                Ciao,

                                Glendale is hungry...

                              2. re: egit

                                Serious question - are any of those restaurants good? I have heard consistently awful things about Alma for years. The rest don't show up on the radar.

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  La Vara is great, but it's on Clinton not Columbia. Calexico has very good burritos. Alma sucks, except the view from the roof is amazing.

                                  If the wait at pok pok is really awful, you could always walk down to Pier 6 and grab a hot dog and beer at Bark, walk up to Henry and get great Japanese at Hibino or very good bar food at Henry Public, or take a stroll into red hook and get dinner at fort defiance, good fork, etc.

                                  1. re: jon

                                    Thanks.

                                    I think your answer reinforces my original point. If my GF and I are in the mood for Thai food and then get told that the wait is 2 hours we both would become somewhat cranky if we had to eat burritos and hot dogs. Henry Public is a nice option but the menu is really limited.

                                    http://www.henrypublic.com/menu/henry...

                                    I really do want to try Pok Pok but I think I'll wait until it the first and second waves of the must-try-this-hot-new-restaurant crowds have moved on to the next big thing.

                          2. re: missmasala

                            We've eaten 3 times at Pok Pok ny, all on Thursdays . The first we came about 7 PM on a lousy weather day and got a seat in the covered back yard without waiting; the other two times we came before 6:30 and had no problem getting a seat inside. So coming early on a weekday evening seems to work fine. Note that these were all before the two star rating from the NYT, but I don't think that that will make much difference.

                            1. re: bobjbkln

                              We've eaten there twice and have never waited...but we got there at opening. Too bad they now open at 5:30 instead of 6. Got there just at 5:30 this Friday (and that was after the NYT review) and were seated in five minutes. Of course, its a drag to have to get there so early and sometimes not possible, but it was worth it. Everything we had was great, although I'm still needing to figure out how to balance the meal (in terms of not too many dishes of the same type, hard to figure out until we've tried a good sampling.)

                              1. re: jinx

                                Here's a picture from last night.

                                http://ny.eater.com/uploads/2012_pok_...

                                That line is insane.

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  I assume that photo was taken before PPN was open. If so, all of those people could have been easily served. If not, they had a VERY LONG wait (as there is a covered waiting area inside).

                            2. re: missmasala

                              Hey, MissMasala. All you have to do to avoid the line at PokPok is go in the warm weather when you can sit in the back, which is lovely, and get there near opening time, on a weekday.

                              I personally found this restaurant revelatory. It's the herbs. I found the pork salad with the herb plate, the Laap Meuang, revelatory--because of the unfamiliar herbs that come with it. I truly recommend the mussels, Hoi Thawt, which had a remarkable texture balance, and the Cha Ca "La Vong", catfish and vermicelli, which left me still craving more turmeric.
                              The diversity and surprise of the flavors I ate here more than made up for the trendiness of the place itself. I do live within walking distance, and don't mind waiting, though I have yet to do so. MissMasala--I took my mom there (and if you don't know who I am, the two of you have worked together for years)--and she agreed with me, that this is the most delightful restaurant experience either of us have had since I discovered Sripraphai over 8 years ago. I may not be the Chowhound I used to be, but I am a hardcore, authentic, hole-in-the-wall devotee. Trendy or not, PokPokNy blew my mind with the clarity--and rarity--of its flavors.

                              1. re: trasteverina12

                                Well next time your mom wants to eat at Pok Pok, let me know and I'll join you. I'd be happy to go back a second time and try some different things.

                                1. re: trasteverina12

                                  I live around the corner from Sripraphai. Last night I got takeout. They make Pok Pok look like P.F. Chang's

                                  1. re: AubWah

                                    I've stopped ordering northern Thai dishes (like Khao Soi) at Sripraphai. it's not their specialty and I haven't found any that they do especially well.

                                    Aub, I'm glad you finally checked out Pok Pok after twice telling us you weren't going. What dishes did you try there that Sripraphai does better?

                        2. finally made it there...i think "good, not great" is a pretty accurate and succinct description...we had:

                          -- N. Thai Herbal Salad...this was disappointing: it was 70% shredded carrots, w/ very token amounts of herbs and about half a teaspoon of ground pork...it was a perfectly decent salad, but given the evocative description, kind of a joke...

                          -- Laab Pla Duk...this is one of my fav Thai dishes in general, but it's very hard to get a topnotch version, even in Thailand...the ground catfish PPN version is so overly coated in rice flour that it almost tastes like doughy cornmeal...it's nicely sour and pretty big portion, but there is very little heat in the dish...i enjoyed it, but nothing to get too excited about...

                          -- grilled pork neck, topped w/ red/green diced chilies...yummy...the best dish of the bunch...

                          -- grilled eggplant salad...average...the eggplant was mushy and seedy and had very little of the charred flavor i was expecting...(the cold grilled eggplant at Yunnan Kitchen is better imo, in terms of the eggplant cooking itself)...but i'll note that while i found this dish so-so, my friend liked it a lot...

                          Staff are friendly...we got there at 5pm on a Sunday and there were about 15 people ahead of us, so we were seated fine...the food arrived (all four dishes at once) less than 15 minutes after we ordered...

                          N. Thai cooking is one of favorites and because i like the general herby/sour profile of the cuisine, i liked my meal...but the hype seems a little silly...i live in Manhattan, and if i was planning to be in that part of Brooklyn and there wasn't a crazy wait, i'd happily return and explore the rest of the menu, but personally i consider Ayada a much more worthy destination restaurant...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Simon

                            "....N. Thai cooking is one of favorites and because i like the general herby/sour profile of the cuisine..."
                            For these flavors I have liked Northern Pork Laab (from the board) -
                            Northern Salad of Preserved Bamboo Shoots, Pork, Crystal Noodles (on the wall) -
                            Sour Sausage - at Chao Thai

                            1. re: wewwew

                              Thanks...when i return i plan to try PPN's pork laab, as well as the prawns in clay pot dish, which looked very tasty on an adjacent table :)

                            2. re: Simon

                              Im curious about your impression of the eggplant dish - when we had it last night the eggplant, while seedy (something that has never bothered me about eggplant) had a distinctly smoky taste. im not talking about grilled char flavor, but specifically smoked, like the menu described it.

                            3. We ate at pok pok ny Friday night and it was great not good. Got there at 5:45 and there was no wait. Had three dishes: the baby back ribs, clay pot shrimp with vermicelli and pork, and a special of wing beans, shrimp, pork, and fried shallots and fish sauce. The ribs were delicious but the least impressive. The wing beans was a whole other story. Possibly one of the best things I've ever eaten. Spicy, sweet, crunchy, amazing. Seriously, if they have this, get it. It was a special Friday night.

                              The drinks were also very good. Service was a bit harried and scatterbrained.

                              I will definitely be returning, and, since we live down the block, putting out name down and coming back is not an issue.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: jon

                                We were in the area at the right time and got in line at 515 last night (they open at 530, not six as stated above). The line was pretty crazy by the time they started letting people in, extending at least three or four storefronts down the block (not everyone who was lined up before opening made it into the first seating. For as slammed as they are we felt like the service and kitchen did a good job (there is a serious operation regarding filling the dining room/deck/backyard that includes a fair number of front of house staff wearing over-the-shoulder radios like ive only ever seen in massive dim sum halls).

                                Like jon we found the wing bean salad to be just spot on - the richness of the coconut milk in the dressing was a very interesting riff of the typical mixture of chili, lime, and fish sauce, and the shrimp that came with it were perfectly cooked and not rubbery in the least. overall id say this place is really hitting the marks when it comes to execution - from our seats in the (covered, ac) patio we could see plating diagrams taped the the kitchen wall.

                                other big hits included the norther style pork belly and shoulder curry, which was wonderfully rich and deeply flavored, and the smoked eggplant salad, which i would order again in a heartbeat.

                                the phaak boong (morning glory/water spinach) tasted just like our favorite spots in bangkok.

                                as we were finishing our meal i declared to no one in particular that this was definitely food worth waiting for - and despite the somewhat strange seating (im not sure how they will weather the winter with fewer than 12 tables plus bar seats indoors) and competitive lineup we'll most definitely be back.

                                it wasn't super cheap, and the portions were on the smaller side, but 3 of us shared 5 dishes and, with two drinks, got out for 100 dollars all told. I like that the dishes run a bit smaller for sharability (you definitely dont need 5+ people to cut a swath through the menu) and appreciate the sourcing relative to other asian places that may put a greater emphasis on affordability when it comes to buying ingredients. we might have spent just a bit less at zaab elee in the east village, but having the drinks options was certainly a big plus, staying in brooklyn was nice, and the flavors were a bit bolder and sharper than we've experienced at ZE (which we really like, and will continue to patronize).

                                1. re: tex.s.toast

                                  i'm delighted that they have wingbean salad: that's one of my fav dishes and almost impossible to find in the US...hope it's still on the specials board next time i go there...

                                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                                    Thanks for the report. Pok Pok changed its opening time about 3 weeks ago.

                                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                                      re-reading the posts between the OPs and mine i realized this had happened - didnt mean to imply that anyone else had posted in error, but just that it would be a shame if someone arrived at 545 thinking they were going to get in on the first seating and found out there was an hour plus wait.

                                      incidentally, we ended up at Pok Pok after being told there was an 1.5 hr wait at brooklyn crab - at 5pm! (and where i had low expectations for food to boot). this is, i suppose, slightly off topic on this thread, but they didnt even have every table ful and just seemed totally disorganized - in stark contrast to Pok Pok.

                                2. Late to the party -- never up for a 2 hour wait, so I waited. Yesterday, Monday, we could have been seated at 6:30 if we were all there, but we weren't. By the time our party was complete (7:15), there was a quoted 25 to 45 minute wait, we were seated in 20. All that is fine. At least while the weather's nice. I live near-ish by (10 -15 minute walk), and used to live on that side of the BQE, so I'm not going to whine about it being the back of the beyond either. And yes, La Vara was our back up plan, not that they haven't been known to quote me a 2 hour wait, also. So, in short, the logistics just aren't really that much of an issue for brownstone BK , especially compared to a long long subway ride to Queens. But but but...

                                  The food is just good, certainly not great, if you do frequent Queens, or Thailand. I can't say I'm the Thai food expert or anything, but I do love Thailand, and travel there regularly. And I also love Queens, and likewise. And this food just left me flat. I probably would have been more impressed, absent the hype, but I certainly wasn't dazzled and it actually compared significantly unfavorably on freshness of flavor, complexity and originality (to say nothing of comfort and service) to my most recent meal at Kin Shop, a restaurant I've previously not thought highly of (let's face it-white boy Thai is oddly more exciting for critics than Thai-boy or girl Thai).

                                  Specifics: the best thing I had was the salted plum vodka collins that kicked off my meal. It was super salty, but I have a salty palate, and I enjoyed the strong flavors a lot.

                                  We were told that the dishes would be "naturally staggered" but everything came out at once.

                                  The catfish "La Vong" was quite tasty, although not mind-blowing, just good clean plain flavors without the gloppiness that can plague run off the mill New York Vietnamese.

                                  The mushroom salad packed a great heat, but that was its main element. Not a lot of subtlety. Our watiress had steered us to that over the eggplant salad -- would probably do it differently the next time.

                                  The white prawns in the clay pot with pork belly was the highpoint -- different flavors, richness, unusual dish, textural variety with the crispiness of the rice. Really enjoyed it.

                                  Definite misses: the pork ribs were simply fatty, no grilled or smoky or other flavors, just chewy maybe not quite done slabs of pink pork with two forgettable hot sauces that slipped off, not clung to the meat. Most of these got left behind as we each ate just one. That NEVER happens with ribs. Should we have had the pork neck or the chicken? Of course we should have, but we were told that the tantalizing smell wafting over our outdoor table was the grilling ribs, and were seduced. Blergh.

                                  The "red fire" water spinach tasted just like that obligatory dish of pea shoot leaves in swimmy brown sauce that you (me) always end up ordering in Chinatown because you think you should have a green vegetable. Boring boring boring, and more than a bit limp.

                                  So, good, not great. We could have ordered better, and I will next time. I live a stroll away, so will be back for sure. If I had to trek, I'd choose Queens (or Chiang Mai :)). And if I want to drop some $$ on farang-cooked Thai-inspired lovingly-sourced grub, I've got more of hankering right now for Kin Shop's Harold's sour-yellow eggplant curry, fried broccoli with sausage, and grilled corn. The Pok Pok hype is kind of mystifying -- don't radically inconvenience yourself for this food, but enjoy it on a beer-y weekday evening in the neighborhood with friends.

                                  19 Replies
                                  1. re: Elaine Snutteplutten

                                    Thanks for the report. I'm still looking forward to trying the Brooklyn Pok Pok; two days ago I got to try the Portland Pok Pok and it was outstanding. Sad to hear that the Lower East Side Pok Pok wing joint is turning over to pat thai, because the wings were a standout of our meal (in Portland).

                                    1. re: Elaine Snutteplutten

                                      I was late to the party, too. Been meaning to post about my meal there a couple of weeks ago.

                                      First of all, what I found amazing was how "Thai" the whole ambiance was, the way you have to walk through a driveway and around some stuff to get to your table. Also, the metal water cups have what I think of as the quintessential "Thai" smell--like they polish them with jasmine rice or something. Drinking water out of those cups really transported me back to Thailand, which I appreciated.

                                      Really liked the drinking vinegars but found them overpriced for what they were. Cocktails were good.

                                      But...I was underwhelmed by the food. None of it was bad, it just wasn't mind-blowingly stellar and also not hot enough for my taste. We ordered the wings spicy and they weren't. Best dishes of the night were the sai oua and the pak boong. Though I was appreciative of all the different herbs that they serve with some of their dishes—you definitely don't see many of them in NYC.

                                      It has occurred to me that it may not be Pok Pok but my taste in Thai food that's to blame. I haven't spent a lot of time in Chiang Mai and don't know a lot about northern Thai food. I love Issan food and Bangkok and southern style food, but maybe northern Thai food isn't my thing. For instance, though I tried it at Pok Pok and have also had it in Thailand, I am never blown away by Khao Soi. It usually just leaves me wishing I were eating curry.

                                      I would love to hear an opinion on Pok Pok from a hound who knows Northern Thai food well. El Jefe, where are you?

                                      1. re: missmasala

                                        I'm glad Andy is stuffing his pockets with piles of money, but I live 5 minutes from Sripraphai and Thailand Center Point, so I'll pass.

                                        1. re: AubWah

                                          You're luckier than me. I live a 10 minute walk from Pok Pok, so I'm sure I'll end up there again, but not too often, as I did find it kind of expensive.

                                        2. re: missmasala

                                          i feel you on the khao soi - or i did until a trip to Lotus of Siam in Vegas. I would have gladly taken a bath in the stuff.

                                          1. re: tex.s.toast

                                            What was different about it there? I've always wondered if it was just not my taste or if I had just never had a really good rendition of khao soi. Though Pok Pok's is supposed to be great—have you had it there? If so, how does it compare to Lotus?

                                            My issue with the Khao Soi I've had is that it's too sweet and not balanced enough by sourness or hotness. I'd rather have a good tom kha gai any day.

                                            I will say that the noodles in Pok Pok's khao soi were excellent—nice chew, not overcooked.

                                            1. re: missmasala

                                              I havent had Pok Pok's Khao Soi so i cant compare, but Lotus' definitely had some good sour to balance the richness, and while it was sweet it wasnt overly so. Its kind of ruined me for other versions, honestly, which just havent stood up (including some in bangkok, where, i aknowledge, its not so much an indigenous food).

                                              1. re: missmasala

                                                At Lotus, the khao soi is served with a profusion of pickled vegetables (the traditional accompaniment) and several lime wedges, so you can control the amount of acid yourself. I've never encountered a khao soi anywhere that wasn't improved with added lime and the pickles. I've not encountered a great khao soi in NY. Lotus's is Las Vegas is favorite. Spoon Thai in Chicago has a very good one, too.

                                                I went to Pok Pok tonight and shared six dishes. There were ups and downs for sure, but I disagree with those who argue that places like Sripraphai or Ayada are consistently better. I think the Muu Kham Waan (pork neck) might be my favorite Thai dish in New York. I had the Laap Pet Isaan for the first time. For those who like duck liver and funky dishes, I highly recommend it -- I've never had larb this coarsely cut. The chicken wings were excellent. As many Chowhounds have indicated, you might not want to eat ten of them, but a couple constitute terrific flavor bombs.

                                                1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                  odd, the larb in Pok Pok Portland was among the MOST finely chopped I've had--they seem to have added some big pieces carefully to give it texture, but overall it was much more mushy (not in a bad way) than the usual ground texture of most Thai larbs.

                                                  1. re: didactic katydid

                                                    I've had the "regular" pork larb at Pok Pok NY and the consistency is "normal."

                                                  2. re: Dave Feldman

                                                    I said just yesterday in the other (somewhat silly, imo) thread that my last meal at Pok Pok was decidedly better than my last one at Sripraphai.

                                                    I just looked at the menu and didnt see Muu Kham Waan - was it a special? We had the pork belly which i thought was unbelievably good (and i just noticed the menu says it has burmese origins, which could explain why i love it - i could eat burmese food for breakfast lunch and dinner, if only i could find it. i usually wait for trips back to sf to get my fix).

                                                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                      When in doubt, order pork dishes at Pok Pok. The Muu Kham Waan is listed in the charcoal grilled specialities. Here's the write-up from the menu:

                                                      "Muu Kham Waan niman ranch pork neck rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar, grilled over charcoal and served with chilled mustard greens and spicy chili/lime/garlic sauce. northern thai drinking food."

                                                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                        sounds tempting but I'll stick to Queens

                                                        1. re: AubWah

                                                          AubWah I wish you would go to Pok Pok, because I totally trust your opinion on Thai Food.. I have spent much time in Thailand and Sripraphai is the most authentic Ive had in NY. I have not yet been to Pok Pok in Bklyn but went to Pok Pok on LES and it was the furthest thing from authentic pad thai ever. So I am skeptical about Pok Pok Bklyn. Another thing of confusion, is that CH'ers keep raving about the laab at Pok Pok. Laab is Isaan food, not Chiang Mai food, so if this is such a "Norhern "place, whats up with the Isaan food? By the way the best Kao Soi is in Chiang Mai, I don't think I ever saw it anywhere else in Thailand. But maybe that's just by chance. Pig and Khao has an interesting version of Kao Soi,

                                                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                            The menu specifically calls the dish "Isaan style" laab. But anyway, the restaurant never specifically bills itself as a Chiang Mai-only cuisine place.

                                                            1. re: Silverjay

                                                              I made it to Pok Pok, the food was good and everything gave a feeling of freshness. The Khao Soi had good flavor and accompanied by some pickled veggies and lime. You will find much better versions of this in Chiang Mai however. Especially when they put pork crackling on top instead of crispy noodles. Also many versions are way spicier than Pok Pok's mild version. Pork neck dish was very good, and I preferred to wrap mine in the iced leafs accompanying it. The laab , i had the duck laab, was so- so. In Isan the duck is "meatier", the ped laab at Pok Pok had the duck ground too fine. The heat was lacking also. They serve the vegetables separate from the ground duck here. I prefer the laab at Zaab Elee over Pok Pok. The crispy porgy, was not different than crispy snapper served elsewhere with a hot sweet and sour sauce. I like porgy, it was fresh , and very good but I can't say it stood out over other restaurants. The grilled chicken dish was excellent. The sticky rice was decent.
                                                              The service was exceptional. The wait was only 5 minutes. It was strange being in a Thai restaurant with no Thai staff ( that I could see). I will go back to try their other dishes. Again the food was fresh and tasty. Much less variety than Sripraphai.

                                                      2. re: tex.s.toast

                                                        Hi tex.s.toast,

                                                        "I said just yesterday in the other (somewhat silly, imo) thread that my last meal at Pok Pok was decidedly better than my last one at Sripraphai."

                                                        THIS thread? Silly?:

                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/865919

                                                        No, don't think so.

                                                        When it comes to great Thai restaurants, the vociferous desperation of this current Pok Pok thread is clear evidence that Brooklyn feels left out.

                                                        What with all of the very good to excellent Thai options in Queens, Brooklyn just suffers from Sripra-pee-pee envy.

                                                        Ciao,

                                                        Glendale is hungry...

                                                2. re: missmasala

                                                  I shouldn't be surprised, given that I generally have gotten a lot from missmasala's posts in the past, to find myself nodding vigorously in agreement on many, many counts, based on my (long delayed!) first visit to PokPok. I wasn't going to chime in since it was just one visit, but I just had to say a "me too!"

                                                  Meaning, you hit the nail on the head that it felt just like a Thai restaurant. We were there on a hot, sticky night, which just added to it, but I was incredibly happy crunching on the gravel and then coming across the back patio.

                                                  It sounds like our parties ordered similar dishes, and I had similar reactions. I thought the pak boong was fantastic, and the sai oua was very pleasurable as well. The latter was, however, a bit disappointing -- it was more like I was so pleased to be eating it again that it didn't matter that this was a relatively "eh" version. Part of the appeal for ordering it again would be that it come with nam prik num, which was quite good. In general, I was surprised not to see dips/jaews like this featured more prominently on the menu. I think Ricker could introduce folks not familiar with these northern Thai dishes to them, and could feature these as stand alones.

                                                  I also liked the northern laab/laab khua. I would have liked to see far more intensity to it than I got -- it wasn't as deep and "dark" as I expect this dish to get. It was, however, a tasty dish, though I think I was the only one in our party really lapping it up.

                                                  I wouldn't have ordered the khao soi as part of a meal, but a friend really wanted to, and I thought it was bad. And I see folks got on a discussion of it below, and I have definitely had some FANTASTIC khao sois before (and I have to say make a generally pretty good one too), but neither Srip nor this gives me any desire to order either one again.

                                                  What else, we did have a lovely fish -- steamed or whatever, I can't remember -- with a great green sauce.

                                                  The eggplant salad surprised me--I expected more balance and certainly some more heat and piquancy. Likewise, I think we got neua namtok, which was fine, but Srips on a good day is better.

                                                  We did NOT get that pork neck dish that others mention, though a friend who is a frequent PokPok eater also says it's fantastic, and I'd put that first on my list next time.

                                                  I am definitely going back and I'm definitely eating the entire menu through and through, because I love having someone trying to bring these foods I love here. But I'm a little puzzled as to why some of them haven't quite translated as well as I suspect he knows how to do.

                                                  1. re: mary shaposhnik

                                                    That's exactly how I felt about the sai oua—so happy to be eating it that I didn't care that it wasn't a super outstanding version. I loved the nam prik as well—didn't mention it because I didn't know what kind it was. I like nam priks in general but don't know too much about them. Are they northern? I always thought they were Issan.

                                                    And glad to hear your opinion on the khao soi. Guess it wasn't me, then.

                                                    We also ordered a fish that was good, but think it was a special, not a green sauce but a red curry-like sauce on it.

                                                    I too wanted to order the pork neck dish but was with people who didn't want it. But will go back for that. And a few other things. I don't know if I would travel to eat here again, but since it's in the neighborhood I'm willing to give it a few more chances.

                                                    I was wondering, if you're going to go to the trouble of putting all those authentic and hard-to-find herbs on the plate, then why not make the food superb? Which is why I suspected that it might be me and not the food. But maybe not, because I know from Mary's posts that she knows a lot about Thai food.

                                                    We also ordered the laab, which I felt could have used more depth of flavor.

                                              2. 7:30pm on Tuesday: zero wait for 2 people.

                                                I wonder if we're in the window now where the crush of summer has faded BUT it's not yet too cold to eat outside, so the restaurant has a good number of seats and there's not as many people eating out?

                                                1. finally got to try the Brooklyn Pok Pok!

                                                  7pm on a Thursday night, 4 people, and no wait at all--they weren't even yet taking names/making a list, and there were vacancies here and there throughout the restaurant as we ate. I think it's just becoming a regular popular restaurant where you can actually realistically go out to eat, which is great!

                                                  the food was excellent overall; we had the fish vermicelli with dill and turmeric (which we'd also had in Portland; still good, very different flavor) and the pork neck (the best thing, I think, and somewhat reminiscent of Sripraphai's chili-garlic grilled pork appetizer, though with a much different texture), plus the very smoky eggplant and the mussels omelette. Of course we got the wings, but I was a bit disappointed--we got one spicy order and one regular order and even the spicy order was not very spicy. And the green papaya salad was barely spicy at all, so much so that the balance was all out of whack and it tasted very sweet and fishy (flavors which are usually complemented by heat).

                                                  True, our dining companion (whose palate is a bit more timid than ours) requested the papaya salad "medium spicy", so I don't think they gave it their all, but...even "medium" som tam should have a real kick in the teeth. And we didn't request the spicy wings toned down (in fact, we eagerly requested heat). Really, the only spicy dish we were served was the pork neck, which was a perfectly fine level of hot.

                                                  I'm really glad to see that it remains popular but isn't unworkably locked up, and although I do wish they would boost the flavor in the food a bit, I will most certainly be back and am glad it's here in NYC.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: didactic katydid

                                                    I also checked out Pok Pok Phat Thai yesterday (the LES location that formerly was Pok Pok Wings). I had the pork and shrimp phat thai (for $12, well above the price of regular thai-joint pad thai).

                                                    it was an enormous portion, and very tasty--the fishiness was quite pronounced, and not in a bad way. The shrimp was very fresh and briny, barely cooked (also in a good way). The best thing for me, weirdly enough, was the peanuts. They were markedly better than garbagey processed peanut powder that's often thrown on pad thai at regular Thai joints; freshly roasted, very tasty, big chunks, lots of them, added a real meatiness.

                                                    I had no problem sitting down at 6:30, either.

                                                    I do miss the wings, and I wish the price was lower, but the food was good and I will probably be getting it again.

                                                  2. I guess that this thread has enough diverse opinions that it doesnt really need another, but that has never stopped me from adding my 2 cents before, so it wont now either.

                                                    There are many folks on CH who know waaaay more than I do about Thai food. And quite a few of those I trust have weighed in on this thread and have disagreed with each other. Oh well. I have eaten at Sri many times over the years with many of them & others. I've also been to Ayada. I love both places. And I've had my share of mediocre to poor Thai food at many other places, several of which are located in this same Brooklyn area. That all being said, 4 of us finally got to Pok Pok this week and, although everything was just fine & the place was warm and inviting, I'm not that impressed.

                                                    We ate quite a bit. Nothing was bad. Everything was explained on the menu and by the waitress. I have no doubt that much care went into sourcing & combining exact (& very interesting) ingredients, using the appropriate sauces (made from scratch) and having great expertise in the kitchen. But this, for me at least, didn't translate to more flavor or taste on the plate(s). Interesting dishes well presented, but somewhat ehh on my taste buds. I'm not talking about spicing level here, as I can liven up anything... I'm talking about having all that care wind up as a product with distinct flavors that I'll remember and want to keep eating. Just about none of these dishes did that. In the past few months I have found that I love Mission Chinese (although it wont replace my trips to Flushing, the chef is churning out great stuff & I'm a fan) & I'm very happy that La Vara is in the neighborhood. Both of these places, with chefs & concepts very different from each other (& from Pok Pok), do what I really wanted this place to do. But here, the bowl of peanuts, with its many listed ingredients and careful production, tasted like.... well, like a bowl of peanuts. Contrast that with the peanuts at Mission or the chick peas at La Vara and you'll see what I'm after here. Similarly, the eggplant dish was very nice, but there's no way that the nuanced spicing or the carefully selected eggplants wound up tasting anywhere near revelatory.

                                                    We'll go back and try again sooner or later. I have no problem with the wait we had (within 10 min. on a weekday eve) or with the pricing or portion size. It's all fine. And its 3 minutes from home. I just want to enjoy the tastes of the food on the plate more. As I said, just my 2 cents.

                                                    22 Replies
                                                    1. re: Steve R

                                                      thanks for the detailed post - we still have not gotten over there.

                                                      really posting to remark that this is the first Ive heard about Mission Chinese - that sounds interesting! what should we know about it?

                                                      And La Vara - I only saw one lukewarm report - can you tell us more??

                                                      or maybe Im spitting in a Yelp hurricane?

                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                        Jen -

                                                        I dont want to say too much about either of the other 2 places on this thread but here's the brief rundown: the chefs/owners at La Vara are the folks who were the original chefs at Tia Pol, then left to open 2 regional tapas places of their own in Manhattan. La Vara, their 3rd place is more a concept and not a region (re-imagined Jewish Sephardic dishes) and there are many plates that just cannot be found elsewhere and are executed incredibly well. However, portions are small and prices are on the higher end, leading to a bit of griping. We've always appreciated Alex' cooking at each of her places and we're more than willing to spend the money here given the quality & unusual nature of the food. Mission Chinese is on the opposite end of this spectrum and is Danny Bowien's trendy spot on the LES where he basically makes up his own riffs on Chinese regional cooking. Things like mackerel fried rice & kung pao pastrami. I find his food very inspiring (& quite tasty) and the prices are extremely low. Lunch has no lines, but dinner is a zoo. Better get there soon... my guess is that this is a limited opportunity. http://missionchinesefood.com/ny/

                                                        Bottom line is that both of these places, like Pok Pok as well, are driven by chef/owners who really take their craft seriously and are putting in everything to create restaurants that stand out. I think the food at Mission and La Vara showcase this while I really didnt think that Pok Pok's did. Of course, it was only one try and, given Pok Pok's location and prices, I'm definitely willing to try again. Ya never know... maybe it was an off night for them or for my own tastebuds. It happens.

                                                        1. re: Steve R

                                                          thanks for taking the time clarifying what was already a well expressed post. I just didint recognixe these names for Brooklyn (appropriately for one) and was intrigued.

                                                          thanks again, Steve..

                                                      2. re: Steve R

                                                        Replying to Steve R:

                                                        Which dishes did you try at Pok Pok? There's not so much detail here on food, just your overall impressions. I've dined at PP in Portland a couple of times and enjoyed the food. I've been to Sri and Ayada and Chao Thai and Zabb Elee many times and I thought Pok Pok out there was definitely on the same level, with some interesting dishes that don't overlap. I think it can be a bit hard to get one's head around their food because it's not what people might expect from most Thai restaurants here (as Dave Feldman mentions upthread)...I know, I know. Good food is good food, regardless of one's familiarity. Just curious about specific impressions about specific dishes...I'm actually visiting Chiang Mai in a couple of months and am looking forward to chasing down local versions of some of the menu.

                                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                                          A fair question. The 4 of us split a whole rouge hen (Kai Yaang), a special long bean dish, the smoky eggplant (Yam Makheua Yao), Pork Laap (Da Chom Laap Meuang), mussels w/crepe (Hoi Thawt), catfish (Cha Ca 'La Vong'), a side of peanuts, sticky rice and jasmine rice. I think we also had another dish but I cant remember which. Of the above, the "broken crepe" mussel dish was, in my opinion, outstanding. Everything else was good but not more than a B or B+. We drank beers and a special cocktail that was on the board (pomegranate I think). Very nice.

                                                          1. re: Steve R

                                                            Hmm. Well you had some chicken, pork, fish, mussels, and some veggie dishes. Pretty good sampling of the menu. Sorry to hear it was only in the "B" range. I think my meals were B+ to A- range. I'm still curious to try the Bkln outpost though.

                                                          2. re: Silverjay

                                                            Silverjay not sure if you had been to CM before but by Walking Street they have great food.
                                                            I attached a picture of really delicious Kao Soi ( as I said in another post, I think this is a Chiang Mai only dish). I also posted sticky rice which was wrapped in to keep it moist but not in a plastic bag, and of course all the bugs to eat.

                                                             
                                                             
                                                             
                                                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                              Thanks...I've posted my initial Chiang Mai research on this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/876215 . Feel free to tack on if you have other recs.

                                                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                that looks awesome...i love khao soi, need to go back to thailand havent been there in a decade

                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                  We all need to go to Thailand ,LOL Hey even Obama is going there

                                                            2. re: Steve R

                                                              We ate at the pdx Pok Pok and haven't tried the NY one yet (though not sure if we will). The only reason I'm writing then is to add that all of the complaints here sound familiar...maybe it's just a Pok Pok way...
                                                              Everything seemed carefully prepared, but my taste buds were not impressed at all. And the level of heat (not flavor, but actual heat) was completely overwhelming on a number of dishes - which is fine if I had asked for spicy, but I hadn't thought to specify that I didn't want my papaya salad to become an inferno in my mouth.
                                                              Overall I was not impressed, and for the price, and the small portions, the entire experience was for us, not really worth repeating. Though I guess I do have some hopes for the NY one...

                                                              1. re: lovessushi

                                                                To be fair, unless you beg them for a deracinated version, the papaya salad ought to be incredibly hot. You shouldn't have to ask for it to be spicy.

                                                                1. re: didactic katydid

                                                                  have the lines died down on this one yet? (Brooklyn)

                                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                                    Not if a first hand report last month and a very close second hand one from last week are to believed.

                                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                                      I went by on Friday 3 weeks ago at around 7:30 and was quoted a wait time of 2 hours. I didn't stick around.

                                                                      At this rate I'm never going to eat there. I'll be forced to continue to go to Queens and eat at Sri and Ayada.

                                                                      You know what? That's pretty good.

                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                        Jen, I think the waits at Pok Pok are to some extent dictated by the weather. When it's really hot or really cold, traffic diminishes.

                                                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                                                          The lines have been pretty much gone for a couple of months, with the exception of peak hours on Friday or Saturday night. You can roll up with a party of six on a Tuesday or Wednesday and wait minutes or even nothing at all.

                                                                          1. re: jen kalb

                                                                            This past Sunday at about 5:15pm, the line was out the door. (And it was cold out.)

                                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                                              We struck out on Saturday....arrived at 5 and were third in line, but my friends had train trouble and arrived at 5:40...too late...the place was filled by 5:40 and the line was down the block. Since they only seat full parties, we were out of luck. And it was freezing. I can't even imagine how long the wait might have been for folks at the end of the line.

                                                                              We didn't even attempt to wait and went to Talde instead. And there was an hour wait there at 6...but at least a warm place to wait inside at the bar! (Also, as usual, the wait they quote is always longer than reality...they told us an hour but it was more like 45 min...but I digress.)

                                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                Cold, rainy night @ 6:45 PM (this past Monday), the wait was 3 minutes.

                                                                                Front of house staff have a well-rehearsed routing regarding the wait. Initially, they estimated 15 minutes and, since we were the only party waiting, we asked if we could wait inside.
                                                                                Answer was a brusque "no". After being seated, the brusqueness was replaced with warm, helpful service and attentiveness. It was our first visit and we enjoyed our meal. Highlights were catfish, curried noodle soup and durian dessert.

                                                                                1. re: famdoc

                                                                                  It sounds like it's a real tossup--sometimes nothing, sometimes long. That's better than the "always long" thing last summer.

                                                                                  is their nearby bar open yet?

                                                                                  1. re: didactic katydid

                                                                                    no, but the bar at chio (the restaurant next door) is pretty good.

                                                                        2. Had dinner there today--no wait at around 6:45. That's the good news. The bad news is that it was just not very good and wound up very expensive. An eggplant/prawns/hard boiled egg salad was strange, sticky mixture of random flavors--but OK. The grilled hen or whatever it's called (first item on the menu) was tough and stringy; hard to get a real bite. (Sauces were nice so I ate them with the sticky rice). A chicken and cauliflower stew was just insipidly flavored and the chicken pieces were tiny and so overcooked it appeared maybe they were in there for flavoring, and not as actual food that was meant to be eaten? It really just seemed like cauliflower and chicken boiled in a pot. Also,not sure how you're supposed to share a soupy dish like this that's obviously meant to be eaten with rice, as they don't give you bowls to eat from or individual servings of rice. The saucer-sized plates that you're meant to eat from just seem wrong as well. (Given that the food is served family-style.) The drinks were good. The ribs were enjoyed by those who ate them. (I did not.) I'd been once before, during the summer, and was underwhelmed but wanted to try again. This will be my last visit.

                                                                          1. I beg to differ. Not just good, GREAT.

                                                                            1. Finally had a chance to try it and WHISKEY AND SODA across the street. W&S was actually quite excellent. There was a snout, ear, and whatever type of pig dish, but served as a kind of bar snack food. It was surprisingly good. An okay dipping sauce-sweet with tamarind. The grilled squid had a dipping sauce that held a very fragrant fermented fish sauce-less sweet and more of the fermented notes-permeating this dipping sauce for a grilled squid. It had salty, sweet, bitter and spicy in an amazing combination. The sour fermented rice and pork sausage was different and surprising, with the fresh ginger included-it was not as strong as most used for Chinese cooking. Wings-the spicy and the fish sauce not so spicy were interesting and good. All in all, great experience. Then we went across the street for our main course.

                                                                              The main courses were not that great. Some hit and miss. The pork belly-okay, but a bit of a yawn. I think it might be connected to the Chaochow immigrant cuisine that I have read about belonging to Thailand. This is a Chinese import it seems. Pork Belly is a wonderful meat, ofcourse. But nothing special about this. The eggplant salad was not well executed-I think-and the egg whites didn't seem to compliment things here. Some of the eggplant was hard and inedible. Chicken was just okay. A bit less than the 1/2 chicken advertised (where's the back and wings?). Brussel sprouts-nothing special. Mushrooms-interesting and spicy, but where's the balance?

                                                                              My wife had a friend-a housewife from Thailand. She said that her cooking was incredibly balanced. She would use a giant cleaver to cut a papaya into delicate slices while holding the papaya in her hand. She was relaxed and didn't even need to pay close attention, and didn't lose her fingers in the process. The Thai lady said that it was essential to cut things that way. Incredible intimacy with the food with that gesture, and at the same time great precision. The food had great balance and elegance according to my wife. My wife was more disapointed than i was with the WS and PP experience. She was hoping that given the great reviews by everyone-Bourdain and NYT, etc., that this place really was authentic, notwithstanding the non-Asian chef. But in retrospect, she was correct. Food is about nourishment and healthfulness and feel-not just throwing together cool flavors.

                                                                              Our meals were cooked by the standard NYC chef #2 or 3s-it seemed. Couldn't be Andy Richter's cooking that we experienced. He's got 5 restos to run. Is the chef from Mexico or South America? In New York, that guess will often be right. And my wife's peak into the kitchen seemed to confirm that. I recently ate at a Korean restaurant vouchsafed by a Fujianese friend. He was totally wrong. It was the worse Korean resto in Koreatown so far for me. Chef was Mexican, I confirmed. Don't get me wrong-I love Mexican cooking tremendously. But I every Asian restaurant I've been to with Mexican chefs has been pretty awful.

                                                                              So while the flavors were fun for me and much more so at WS, I won't go back to Pok Pok soon. I want that "feel" of Thai food. I want to feel good when I leave; not just be entertained while I'm there. New York restos can't often fit that bill easily with the high volumes and all.