Portland favorite Pok Pok just opened a new location in the northwest. Hurray, there’s a Pok Pok in my hood! This is Andy Ricker’s fourth Pok Pok in town, and this one serves Thai and Vietnamese favorites from the original location on Division St, plus some brand new dishes. While the beloved Division St location offers a unique hole-in-the-wall ambiance, the new Pok Pok NW is bright and airy with natural light, exposed brick, and colorful accents.
When Pok Pok announced the soft opening of the NW location, I was lucky enough to snag one of the preview reservations (where the food is on the house) available to the general public. (I’d like to take a moment and thank my speedy cat-like reflexes.) We arrived a few minutes early for our reservation, and a group had already gathered outside, eagerly waiting for the “nope” sign to change to “open”.
At Pok Pok, the dishes are meant to be enjoyed family-style, and I recommend 2-3 dishes for a party of two depending on how hungry you are. In the past, we’ve ordered 3 dishes and left Pok Pok stuffed. The flavors and textures are on point, and unlike many American Thai restaurants, it’s not unpleasantly greasy. At Pok Pok, everything is balanced and refined. I’m always surprised by how hearty the food is, even the salads. There are many Pok Pok dishes that aren’t veg-friendly, but your server can help you navigate the menu and request substitutions. If you have no idea where to start on the extensive drink menu, I’d go for one of the refreshing drinking vinegars.
Papaya salad ($9.50) is a classic Central Thai dish that I never pass on, and they make it to order in the pok pok (mortar and pestle). We ordered the salad sans fish sauce and shrimp. Pro tip: you have to get the papaya salad with the chili. The heat slowly, but surely sneaks up on me every time, but it’s totally worth it.
We also shared the khao soi with tofu ($15.50). Even though it’s a noodle soup, it’s lighter on the noodles, heavier on the toppings than I had expected. The tofu soaks up the mild curry flavor of the broth nicely, while the mushrooms are so meaty, I’ve had to do a double take. The noodles are a bouncy al dente, and the curry broth is slurpable.