Monday, July 9, 2012

Pok Pok Ny

The famously addictive fish sauce-marinated wings - though Pok Pok Ny serves far more than just wings

We have recently written about Chef Andy Ricker's dangerously addictive Vietnamese-inspired chicken wings at Pok Pok Wing on the Lower East Side. That location's 2-item menu provides only a slight prelude to Ricker's exceedingly impressive "Northern Southeast Asian" restaurant in Brooklyn: Pok Pok Ny. (The last word, oddly, rhymes with "my" yet still somehow indicates "New York"). It is also very hard to get to, sitting across from a shipping yard in an un-named neighborhood in Brooklyn between Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights far from all subways. In that sense, it is keeping up with other top notch yet hard to get to Thai restaurants like Sripraphai, out in Woodside, Queens (at least that one's near the LIRR stop). But that doesn't stop the crowds from lining up well before the restaurant opens for dinner service.
The line waiting for Pok Pok Ny to open for dinner

Now is the time to go to Pok Pok Ny, since their ample outdoor garden greatly supplements the smaller indoor space (though, perhaps a few weeks ago before the N.Y. Times review was published would have been better).

The food is inventive yet authentic and unlike anything you'll find at the city's more pedestrian Thai restaurants (no Penang Curry or Pad Thai here for example).  Not everything is amazing, but the food is certainly worth taking the hike - and lining up for a visit.

An excellent charcoal grilled pork neck - with an odd side of chilled mustard greens
An excellent bloody mary started the meal from their fairly extensive cocktail list. I've long been partial to innovation in the bloody mary genre and have appreciated new takes on the classic. This one is spiced with Thai chilis and served with a branch of Thai basil, one of my favorite herbs. A G&T with kaffir lime gin was pretty good, though the rhubarb blush and tamarind whiskey sour were more sweet than sour.

Pok Pok Bloody Mary
The food menu is divided into various categories but most items are meant to be ordered for the table to share. Some are appetizer-sized, others are closer to an entree, but none is particularly large. Each item on the menu helpfully contains a description as well as the location of origin or inspiration - which will provide me with good advice for a forthcoming trip to Vietnam. 

The Vietnamese wings are also on the menu at this location and for whatever reason, I felt they were even better here than at Pok Pok Wing. Perhaps they were fresher or maybe the first portion a few weeks before warmed me up to the fish sauce-imbued flavor. Simply awesome.

Many dishes combined numerous flavors and textures - and all looked messy on the plate -- for the most part, all of these elements successfully came together.

Crispy crepes with steamed mussels
A particularly successful example of this was the Hoi Thawt - a crispy crepe interspersed with steamed mussels, eggs, chives, and sprouts, with a sriracha-infused sauce. The combination of textures (crispy eggy crepes, crunchy scallions and sprouts, steamed mussels), and flavors (spicy, sweet, and sour) made this dish stand out as one of the best.

A spicy and sweet forest mushroom salad also combined numerous flavors into a successful dish. Despite all of the strong flavors added to the mushrooms - soy sauce, lime, chilis, shallots, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, toasted rice powder - the mushrooms held their own.

Forest mushroom salad
Ricker also makes good use of the charcoal grill; the smoke is a nice addition to his usual combination of spicy and sweet flavors. A soy-glazed charcoal grilled (boneless) pork neck dish was also impressive and just smoky enough to taste over the sweet and spicy glaze. It was served with chilled mustard greens - literally a stack of mustard greens topped with crushed ice. We didn't really know what to do with them - I suppose they were supposed to provide a crunch between bites - who knows. Even better was an awesome charcoal grilled spare ribs dish, marinated in whiskey, soy, honey, ginger, and Thai spices - and served with two dipping sauces; both spicy, even spicier when combined. 

Sweet and spicy spare ribs
Catfish
A Vietnamese catfish salad was less impressive - the strong flavors of multiple herbs, aromatics, and sauce combinations overwhelmed the fish; the addition of so many strong flavors is better on other dishes that can more easily hold their own.

In case you haven't had enough sugar from the savory courses, Pok Pok serves a competent mango sticky rice, as well as a fun coconut-jackfruit ice cream sandwich served on a sweet hot dog bun with peanuts and sweet sticky rice. Their take on an affogato with Vietnamese coffee and a Chinese doughnut is also popular.

Coconut and jackfruit ice cream sandwich
Service, like at many new restaurants, could use some time to sort out some kinks. Dishes came out in a haphazard order. Some were forgotten for a long time, others came out right away. An extra order of wings arrived (mistakenly - rats!) at our table. The waiters also could have explained the dishes to us when they arrived, as some are fairly intricate, and others have parts that we didn't know what to do with (like the iced mustard greens in the pork neck dish).

The no reservations policy is annoying, but not unexpected in New York these days. In the end, we're more than willing to accept long lines, no reservations, and touch and go service for creative and delicious food that can't be found easily anywhere else. Pok Pok Ny is the most recent and excellent foray in that category.

Pok Pok Ny
127 Columbia St.
Brooklyn NY 11231
(718) 923-9322
pokpokny.com

Recommended Dishes: Pok Pok Bloody Mary ($10), Ike's Wings ($12.50), Hoi Thawt (crispy crepes with steamed mussels) ($14), Sii Khrong Muu Yaang (spare ribs) ($16), Muu Kham Waan (pork neck) ($16), Het Paa Naam Tok (forest mushrooms) ($12), Ice cream sandwich ($6.50).


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Pok Pok NY on Urbanspoon

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