Sunday, 9 November 2008

25.10.08: Pok Pok, Portland, OR

Grilled pork skewers with coco-p'nut sauce; the most amazin' chicken wings ever
Tired and ravenous after landing in Portland at 8pm, We found a bunch of cute restaurants right down the block from Our terribly charming retrofied guesthouse. It was a tough call, but finally He decided on the deceptively unassuming place with outdoor seating furnished with big heat lamps.

After a 40-min. wait in Matchbox, the bar across the street, We were ushered into Vietnamese street food splendour - quite unexpectedly, dazedly, and delightedly. Pok Pok is the name of the outdoor area and stands for the overall dining enterpise, but We were seated in the elegant indoor Whiskey Soda Lounge, for which She was rather grateful.

whole marinated roast game hen with tamarind sauce and chilli sauce
Our waiter warned us the portions were delicate, tapas-like things, so we ordered three plates plus two rices to share:

- Muu sateh,
pork loin skewers marinated in coconut milk and turmeric, grilled over charcoal and served with peanut sauce, cucumber relish and grilled bread;

- Kai yaang, whole roasted natural game hen rubbed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro served with a spicy sweet and sour dipping sauce; and

- Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings, marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic and served with Vietnamese table salad - also known as one of Food and Wine's Top 10 restaurant dishes of 2007.

- Coconut and (truly) sticky rice, with the latter moulded into a ball, protected by a small plastic bag, and served in a little wicker box.

HE SAYS: Apart from ordering too much food, our first Portland dining experience was fantastic. The game hen and chicken wings far outdid any food we had experienced thus far on our trip. I especially loved the chicken wings, which were moist, sticky and delish.

The sauces that came with the game hen were so moreish I couldn't help but pour the stuff over the fragrant coconut rice for an intense flava-fest. This place was a good omen for Portland's culinary choices to come. The low-lit ambiance was very cosy and the service excellent. We both agreed that the water served with our meal was infused with rice essence somehow - a nice authentic touch.

SHE SAYS: From all (later) reports, We accidentally chose one of the best restaurants in Portland. It was all as fabulous as it sounds, presented in casually elegant, nicely designed surroundings. My only quibble is the big fat lie our waiter handed us about portions - we could have shared 2 plates. (Portions have continually induced mild shock since we landed Stateside.)

I am not normally a wings kinda gal, but the wings were the best, hands-down: supercrunchy but with glaze bonus; just spicy enough to tickle the tongue; a perfect level of saltiness; and that tiny, teasing hint of citrus.

Pork skewers were more subtle but v. good, with best coconut-peanut sauce ever (heavy on the coco). Saucewise, tho', the tamarind broke the ribbon easily and fast: that dark sticky tang was the perfect foil for the sassy game hen, which had a tea-like savour brushed lightly with smoke. The sticky rice ball was fun to pluck from, and the coco rice was what it should be: modestly sweet and filling. Not bad for a late-nite, local wander...

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