On the first night in Portland, we found this Thai restaurant called Pok-Pok which is supposed to be a food destination of sorts, serving Thai cuisine. The interesting part is that it goes beyond the classic Tom Yum and Pandan Chicken but serves up tasty versions of popular Thai delicacies.
The branch we visited was located along SE Division and quite close to the Salt & Straw outlet which I would also cover in the second half of this foodie post. From the exterior, the restaurant resembled a sort of pop-up store and considering we did not make reservations, we were surprised to get a seat quickly with little wait. Might be it was quite late, or we were just lucky. There are several sections in this eatery, with an outdoor bench and seating by the patio, a separate tented section for large groups and the main restaurant with a bar counter. We got seats by the bar for 2 person and the place is packed and does not feel like a Thai restaurant. What it feels like is eating in the roadside stalls of Thailand. Very authentic experience and probably that sets the mood right for the food to follow.
On top of the normal menu which has a wide variety of dishes from salads to meat and seafood, there are daily specials scribbled on the chalkboard at the end of the restaurant. The wide variety of Thai dishes that even I found foreign made it longer as we perused the menu.
In the end, we ordered a papaya salad and the chicken skewer (satay) for appetizers. The papaya salad was spicy enough to feel like it could have been served in South-east Asia. On the other hand the satay was delicious. This is me speaking from someone who has eaten various kinds of satay in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. In fact I am a huge fan of the pork satay commonly found in the food stands of Bangkok. So this chicken satay was tender and juicy, while the peanut sauce was of the perfect consistency. The addition of half slices of toast for dipping with the peanut sauce was the best twist to the dish.
For the main dish, we had the chicken wings, which is also considered one of the house specialty. Chicken wings are practically easy dishes though this one does have a very nice tangy yet sweet flavour to it. It was truly delicious and I could see myself ordering it again and again. The sticky rice that was a side order was alright, but I think I had better sticky rice and I think it lacks some of the coconut flavour. I guess this is the only part that does not feel like Thailand.
To end the meal, we shared the coconut jackfruit ice cream that was served on a sweet soft bun. This is similar to the ice cream sandwich that could be found in several Asian cities. The coconut and jackfruit flavour in the ice cream is perfectly executed and I could really taste the tropical flavours in this dessert. Even the bun was more similar to the soft breads that are commonly found in Asia. So kudos to Pok-pok for this rendition. Having had these dishes, I actually would rate Pok Pok as one of the best Thai food in North America that I ever had. In fact it is probably the closest thing ever to eating on the street side in Bangkok that one is ever going to get!
On the second day, we returned to this area again after having coffee from Intelligentsia for ice cream at Salt & Straw, a creamery that my friend mention is the best ice-cream store she ever visited. Salt & Straw is somewhat a gourmet ice cream store with a wide range of interesting flavours deviating from the usual chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. I ordered one of the Chocolate series specials they were running and while it was good, I can’t say it is my favourite ice cream flavour ever. I did, however enjoy their coconut with salted caramel bars flavour that my friend ordered.
The good thing about their ice cream is the texture was pleasant and it is one of those ice cream that doesn’t make you feel sick of it after a couple of huge scoops. However I found their flavours to be over the top with some being slightly too sweet for my taste buds. Even after sampling a couple of other flavours I found myself enjoying them like other ice cream but not something that will tug at my heartstrings. But I would still recommend visitors to Portland to give this ice cream store a try, though try to come in the morning or early afternoon as the store gets really crowded at night in most of their branches with long queues.