Since Pok Pok's initial entry into the New York City market, two things have happened. One, they've moved into a new space directly across the street from the spot they originally landed in when they migrated from Portland. And two, the novelty has worn off. We're going to put both of these developments into the "improvement" column. At the same time, we're bringing our rating down a bit from the initial review we wrote a few years back. Here's why.
When Pok Pok first showed up in New York, it was like the restaurant equivalent of when David Beckham signed a deal to play soccer in Los Angeles. Some people who follow what goes on in far away lands were very excited. But much like that famous footballer, I'm not sure that Pok Pok NY was ever quite as good as it's PDX predecessor in its prime. The name recognition certainly put some butts in seats, but the expectations were often too high to live up to reality. Once people in this city have to travel any distance to dinner and then end up waiting long periods of time for it, people expect to see impossible things to happen. Like soccer balls that curve in mid air.
Now that the "new-ness" has worn off, expectations inevitably have come down to earth too. You'll still have to wait a while for dinner, even at this new location, but there seems to be less of a general frenzy about the place. As for us, we've definitely had plenty of good meals at Pok Pok in recent months, and we'd happily bring people who love Thai food here to experience an excellent example of the cuisine. So, why then would the rating come down in this updated review? Because of the meals we've had since our first time at Pok Pok.
For as good as this place is, there are simply other Thai restaurants in New York (and in other places) that we like better. SriPraPhai will always be a go-to, and Zabb Elee is another place we love for authentic Isaan food without the hassle (see, people). Uncle Boons probably gets our vote for the "trendy" Thai restaurant at the top of our list. And if we're traveling for Thai, we're going to Little Serow in DC, which we've actually traveled for a few times because it's that good.
I guess the moral of the story here is that Pok Pok will live up to your expectations, as long as you don't expect it to be the best Thai food that you've ever had. We think you'll like it, as long as you go in with the mindset that you're there to have a unique experience. But if you go in expecting to have your mind blown with constant entertainment, you'll probably be let down. Kind of like soccer.
Pok Pok is famous for its wings, and for good reason. These crispy, sweet and salty, fish sauce-based wings are absolutely incredible. You might need a double order.
Essentially just the traditional green papaya salad that you see on other Thai menus, but done very, very well. Add some spicy crab for the real Northern Thai experience.
A simple salad with sliced up pieces of crispy egg. It'll work as something to share for the table.
Another solid salad, this one has spicy chicken and a bunch of sweet, sour, salty, spicy Thai flavors. It probably won't blow your mind, but you'll appreciate it.
This broken crepe dish a) has an awesome name and b) should be ordered - but only assuming you can get down on mussels. They're mixed in with the crepe and the texture can throw you off if you're not expecting it. Order accordingly.
Baby back ribs that will certainly please you, but we're not suggesting that they're a must order. We like the flavor just fine, but there are better things on this menu.