First of all, I am not a food critic. And I would like to make it clear that I am not here to give the restaurant stars or take it down. In fact, my opinion here does not and should not really matter much if you would like to visit this place.
However, I am a teacher who teaches how to cook Thai food and the school's purpose is to educate people to know what Thai culture really is through food. So really my opinion on the restaurant is only as someone who grew up and ate old school Thai food for 30 years.
I had a chance to visit the United Stages again last year in November, 2016 and I have heard so many people talk a lot about this guy, Andy Ricker who cooks and serves Thai, mainly northern style, food in his restaurant. I have been, for a while, watching his videos and some more article related to he himself and his works. And finally, I got myself to his restaurant in Brooklyn.
However, the real reason for my visiting Pok Pok this time was that I would like to see what the restaurant serves and how it tastes because some of my past students (from the US of course) who like local Thai food had eaten or heard of Andy Ricker's work before. I wondered what it was like in this restaurant.
I admire his work on getting the dishes very close to what a very good restaurant in Thailand would serve. It must be a lot work for him to get the dish made this close to what it is in Thailand considering all of the ingredients have to be imported. Even though the ingredients might not be as fresh as in Thailand, the food he served didn't lose its own identity.
Above all, I would like to thank him for serving authentic Thai food to his customers, many of whom have never been to Thailand. He has raised the bar for all Thai restaurants in the US, showing them that Americans are indeed ready for authentic Thai cuisine. And that in a way, he is helping me save my culture. We own you big time, Mr Ricker. Thank you very much.
What do I think of the taste?
One dish that he did better than what I've eaten in Thailand was "Nam Tok Neua". The beef just nailed it. The quality of the American beef combined with Thai style of marinating just created a match made in heaven.
Hang Lay was close to the one that I can get here in Thailand. So this one was good too. "Only good?!" you may ask. I have to let you know first that I'm not a big meat-eater. I can eat it but would prefer a dish that has a good balance between meat and vegetables. So if you ask my boyfriend, who is a meat-lover and who went with me, his answer to this is Hang Lay was great!
Gai Yang was my second least favourite and that is because the chicken wasn't herby all the way. Yes, the chicken was tender but the herby taste faded out when I had the part that wasn't close to the herb filling. According to Andy's video, he went to the shop named "SP Chicken" in Chiang Mai and he said this was the place where he learned how to make this Gai Yang. But really, chicken from SP Chicken is still the winner by far.
The least favourite from this visit was "Lab Khua". And the reason was that it was over packed with spices. Yes, Thai food is spicy when you compare it with Westerner's food. However, it doesn't mean that spice should be the only thing you can taste. Thai food is more about balance and unluckily, I love this dish a lot. So I'm very sorry if the bar of this dish is a bit high.
Again, this is me, only one person's opinion so ... how much you should give weight to my words is totally up to you. But if you are looking for information before get yourself to the joint, then I would say just stop and go and see if you like it. I hope my blog has helped you somehow. And if you actually go, then I would love to hear what you think as well. Enjoy :)