Mon - Sun: 5:30PM - 10:30PM
"No frills, but all thrills" is the word on Andy Ricker's "bold" Columbia Waterfront destination that lures throngs with its "affordable", "delectable" takes on "real Thai" classics; despite a no-rez rule and "crazy" waits, aficionados say "believe the hype" – and suggest whiling away the time pre-meal in its cocktails-and-snacks adjunct, Whiskey Soda Lounge, across the street.
At this Brooklyn offshoot of Andy Ricker's James Beard award–winning Southeast Asian restaurant in Portland, Ore., the chef trounces typical pad thai and Penang curry with flavor explosions like spicy-sweet caramelized chicken wings with a hint of fish sauce funk, and rich, gingery pork belly stewed with tamarind and Burmese curry powder.
Pok Pok draws a neighborhood crowd as well as diners who travel great lengths to feast on Ricker's reasonably priced, authentically spicy Thai cooking. The informative menu traces the origins of each dish and guides diners through a handful of uncommon specialties from Thailand's neighboring countries. Vietnam's Cha Ca "La Vong," for example, pairs turmeric-rubbed catfish with a tangle of rice vermicelli, fresh dill, mint and cilantro, crunchy peanuts and taste bud–tingling pineapple mam nem. Pok Pok's cocktails, which often make use of house-made tart and tangy drinking vinegars, pack the same bright, punchy flavors as the food. But one of the tastiest sips is a freebie — the complimentary drinking water is infused with the toasty, grassy, infinitely refreshing flavor of the tropical pandanus leaf.
Although there are three dining areas — a narrow front room lined with bar stools and snug tables, a tented back room decorated with hanging plants and Christmas lights (heated in winter), and a garden with a handful of umbrella tables — snagging a seat is a challenge. Pok Pok doesn't take reservations, and waits on the weekends commonly top three hours (you can leave your phone number and wait at a nearby bar). There's less traffic around opening time on weeknights, but you should still be prepared for a long night.
F, G to Bergen St.
What to tell a cabbie
Take me to Columbia St. between Kane St. and Degraw St. in Brooklyn.
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