Of course even though I might sometimes tell strangers I don't know Pok Pok, last month Steph and I made a repeat visit to Pok Pok NY on the Columbia Waterfront District. It's definitely out of the way for most people because you have to walk or take a bus to the restaurant. This visit was to their newer location and it was across the street from their Whiskey Soda Lounge. On this visit I was reminded how much reading you have to do with the menu because man, there's plenty of description to get across to learn about Isan Thai food. Being a dirty American, I can't remember the last book I read, so there was definitely a little challenge to settle my brain to reading all the description about the food.
We decided to start with their wings... mmm, Pok Pok chicken wings. The only other time I tried their super awesome chicken wings was at their PDX location. These things came with some pickled daikon and carrots which were nice to balance the fatty nature of fried wings.
The pork laab was easily the best thing we tried and even better than the chicken wings. The laab or larb, came with a plate of leafy rabbit food to help you pick up the meat salad. I think maybe twenty years ago you could have used a Thai restaurant as as barometer of whether your not you have unique ethnic food in your suburb, but in 2014 that metric has moved past just Thai food, but regional Thai food of Northeastern Thailand. Having a Thai restaurant that has laab is an example of whether you gots it good.
We also had some stir fried watercress. There was a possibility to add pork to the dish and I'm sure it would be interesting, but it's very delicious without the pork addition. You're not missing out on anything if you're too Chink to add pork to it. One could easily polish a bamboo steamer of sticky rice with just one plate of these watercress.
Putting it plainly, Pok Pok NY is probably the best Thai restaurant New York has to offer. One of the things it has going for it is that the reputation of being awesome already, and the person driving the quality is putting his name behind the brand. Zabb Elee was the bee's knees but then their chef left and opened Larb Ubol. And while Somtum Der is good, who knows if it ever changes in the back of the house? I'm sure there has to be a segment of Thais in NYC who think it's crazy that the white dude's Thai restaurant is the best, but I think all this is because the brand is strong.
Pok Pok NY
117 Columbia St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231
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