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Anything like Pok Pok in the Bay?

hungree Feb 18, 2013 10:40 AM

Probably not, but worth a try...

  1. s
    sambamaster Mar 1, 2013 11:10 PM

    I am in Portland now and have NO desire to hit Pok Pok. It is NOT the best Thai in the city. But the white press has elevated it to mythical status. Go to Rama Thai in Beaverton where half the chalkboard menu is untranslated Thai to see where the real food is.

    Or, in the Bay Area, go to Chai Thai Noodle on International, or, as I said before, one of the Thai/Lao places in Oakand, or Richmond (like Green Papaya, or Vientiane) . Andy Ricker is a smoke and mirror fraud. Give me a break. Oh, wait, he was on the Today Show; he must be legit!

    1 Reply
    1. re: sambamaster
      hungree Mar 2, 2013 10:06 AM

      Seems a little harsh. "White press" ?

    2. b
      brhau Feb 22, 2013 01:42 PM

      Skimming the thread-- Lers Ros is wonderful. Chabaa also has a nice Thai menu (you have to ask for it) that has Northern-style food. But having never been to Pok Pok, I can't vouch for how it compares.

      1. v
        vulber Feb 20, 2013 12:59 PM

        also, i haven't been, but has anyone been to hawker fare/can compare?

        2 Replies
        1. re: vulber
          dunstable Feb 20, 2013 01:33 PM

          I've not been to Pok Pok, but Hawker Fare is very little like Thai food, Northern or otherwise. Probably an apples-to-oranges comparison.

          I like Hawker Fare (especially the pork belly bowl), but would not consider it worth a detour, especially for a tourist. It's where I go if I'm in the area for lunch.

          1. re: dunstable
            Ridge Feb 20, 2013 03:27 PM

            Wanted to like Hawker fare but found it just ok. Not at the same level as PokPok in terms of the vibrancy of the food.

        2. v
          vulber Feb 20, 2013 12:57 PM

          zen yai is offering a late-night thai street food menu from 10pm-1am on fridays and saturdays. but it's written in thai, so i don't know what dishes they have.

          also, i'm in the minority about pok pok, but i just don't get the hype. it's not street food, but lotus of siam is so much better.

          1 Reply
          1. re: vulber
            sambamaster Feb 20, 2013 01:40 PM

            Vulber, glad to hear someone else wonders about the amazingly thick smoke, and highly distorted mirrors that have surrounded the Pok Pok legend. I used to live close to it in Portland, went several times and mostly had negative experiences, both with the food, and the attitude-heavy servers. Had one experience with the owner's second outing in Portland called Ping...some of the worst food I've ever put into my mouth. Lotus of Siam is light years ahead.
            I've had far better chow than Pok Pok at Chai Thai Noodle, Vientiane Cafe and Green Papaya, though the latter two are more Lao than Thai...Just sayin'.

          2. d
            dunstable Feb 20, 2013 08:45 AM

            I'm sort of surprised it hasn't inspired imitators by now, given all the outrageous hype -- surely it can't be that hard to reproduce Northern Thai food? I've wanted to try it for a while, and in fact have been in both Portland and New York in the last few months, but the prospect of an hour-long line always scared us away.

            3 Replies
            1. re: dunstable
              hungree Feb 20, 2013 09:12 AM

              Wait in Portland was less than 20 minutes on a weeknight. I've had a few dishes that reminded me of Pok Pok at Lotus of Siam in Vegas. Other than that, yea, really strange how it's not available anywhere especially here in the Bay.

              1. re: dunstable
                Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2013 09:14 AM

                It seems like the only places around here that serve Thai food more like they make it in Thailand are ones where they get a lot of Thai customers.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  twocents Feb 22, 2013 05:42 PM

                  I am no expert, but I get the impression that the Thai/Lao population here is more Lao than Thai, esp. compared with Los Angeles/Hollywood/San Fernando Valley.

                  A place like Pok Pok sounds like it depends more on the inspiration and experiences of one dedicated Westerner. I'll check it out next month if I get a chance.

              2. f
                FattyDumplin Feb 20, 2013 08:27 AM

                What about soi 4 in Berkeley?

                9 Replies
                1. re: FattyDumplin
                  hungree Feb 20, 2013 08:51 AM

                  I actually think Soi 4 is kindof the polar opposite of Pok Pok, or at least the things I wish we had from Pok Pok in the Bay. Soi 4 is fancy high end thai. The typical thai restaurant but made with more refinement and executed perfectly. Pok Pok is something I've never had before, is street food, authentic down to which restaurant in thailand each dish mimics/draws from, and spicy in a way I've never experienced before.

                  1. re: FattyDumplin
                    Ridge Feb 20, 2013 11:47 AM

                    We were not wowed by soi4 but we have not been back in years. A good choice for Thai in the east bay is Sabuy Sabuy II.
                    See this thread:

                    1. re: Ridge
                      Robert Lauriston Feb 20, 2013 12:19 PM

                      Soi 4's good. There and Chai Thai are the two places I go regularly.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        hungree Feb 28, 2013 09:51 PM

                        Went to Chai Thai and got two dishes that were almost exactly the same as at Pok Pok. Pok Pok's crispy shrimp papaya salad was spicier, but this was really close. The coconut noodle with pickled mustard greens was the exact same. Only different is Pok Pok put the pickled greens and red onions and garnish on the side, so it was a bit fresher.

                        But still this was awesome in it's own right and will be back. Have seen Chai Thai mentioned a lot on this board and was curious to see if we could replicate these two dishes from Pok Pok.

                        Want to go back for the stuffed chicken wings, crab chunk noodles, and see if the nam kao tod is as good as at Lotus of Siam in Vegas.

                        Will still probably go to Neecha Thai for vegetarian (did not think the Chai Thai tofu and veggies was that great; don't have a picture) but Chai Thai seems awesome for northern thai dishes.

                        1. re: hungree
                          PolarBear Mar 1, 2013 06:20 AM

                          Is the name of this place Chai-Yo?

                          1. re: PolarBear
                            Pius Avocado III Mar 1, 2013 07:31 AM

                            No, Chai Thai: http://www.chaithainoodle.com/

                            My favorite dish there is ka moo.

                            Soi 4 is good. The app specials at happy hour (til 6) are a steal, and a good range of them is offered.

                            1. re: PolarBear
                              Robert Lauriston Mar 1, 2013 07:51 AM

                              Lots of posts about Chai Thai:


                              The menu was at first cloned from Thai House Express, where the chef used to work. Might have evolved some since.

                            2. re: hungree
                              grayelf Mar 2, 2013 09:31 AM

                              Thanks for the heads up that Chai Thai has nam kao tod, hungree. I love the Lao version at Vientiane. May need to branch out and try the one here, or at Champa Garden, next trip. So far completely unsuccessful finding it anywhere in Vancouver so have to rely on eating trips to fulfill the jones :-).

                          2. re: Ridge
                            Ridge Feb 26, 2013 10:38 AM

                            Went back to Sabuy Sabuy II last Friday. It was another great meal. Started with an interesting Thai salad made with fresh strawberries. I would never have thought strawberries would go with a spicy Thai salad but it was a wining combination and something you might expect from a street food vender in Thailand. The entire meal was excellent and included spicy beef soup, a scallop masamam style curry and amazing fried prawns. I highly recommend this place if you want non Americanized good Thai food.

                        2. free sample addict aka Tracy L Feb 18, 2013 02:58 PM

                          I wish. IMVHO, I think the concept of street food makes it as unique as it also being non-fusion. I'll be interested if you find something.

                          A very long time ago I ate at Royal Thai in San Rafael. They had a crepe dish on the menu, not nearly as good as Pok Pok, but very good. You might want to check out the offerings and recent reviews. As I said it was a long time ago.


                          1. Melanie Wong Feb 18, 2013 10:49 AM

                            You'll probably get more replies if you say what you like about Pok Pok that you're seeking closer to home.


                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              hungree Feb 18, 2013 11:19 AM

                              Hmm it looks like this thread seems to cover it. I'll check out Lers Rors. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/815640

                              1. re: hungree
                                Ridge Feb 18, 2013 04:35 PM

                                Have been to PokPok in Portland a couple of times. Ler Ros serves some of the best Thai food in the Bay Area but it’s not like PokPok. There is nothing like it in the Bay Area. But the concept (vibrant, rustic and authentic small plate northern Thai street food made with high quality ingredients, unique focused menu that changes) would be wildly successful here.

                                1. re: Ridge
                                  hungree Feb 18, 2013 05:19 PM

                                  I wish i could get that spicy papaya salad with the crazy crunchy shrimp/fish sauce thing somewhere. Might just have to fly to Portland. Pok Pok's version of spicy was even more enjoyable than Mission Chinese and the dishes all seemed completely non-fusionised at all.

                                  1. re: hungree
                                    Ridge Feb 18, 2013 06:46 PM

                                    If PokPok were in SF I would go every weekend. Funny you should mention Mission Chinese. Although the cuisine is completely different than PokPok it reminds me of PokPok in terms of the uniqueness and bold use of flavors.

                                    1. re: hungree
                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 19, 2013 08:00 AM

                                      The papaya salad is the best thing at the Sunday food court at Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Berkeley Thai temple. You can get it very spicy with crunchy miniature crabs in the fish sauce.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        Ridge Feb 19, 2013 08:16 AM

                                        We used to go to Wat Mongkolratanaram regularly but stopped going because the crowds were getting too big. Haven’t been in years but have been meaning to go back. Is it still good?

                                        1. re: Ridge
                                          Robert Lauriston Feb 19, 2013 08:26 AM

                                          I don't think it has changed much aside from the shorter hours.

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