I’m finally finishing up my long overdue post about Pok Pok. I tried Pok Pok for the first time two years ago when I was visiting Portland. Back then, they were already pretty famous. I had learnt about Pok Pok a couple of years back when they were featured on one of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives episodes. Lots has happen in these past two years. The creator/owner of Pok Pok, Andy Ricker won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Northwest award in 2011. Not only has he opened a second location (Pok Pok Noi) in Portland which mainly does take out, he’s also taken the infamous brand to the Big Apple earlier this year. New Yorkers are lucky to now have not one, but two Pok Pok locations – the tiny to-go outpost, Pok Pok Wing in NYC and the slightly larger sit-down restaurant, Pok Pok NY in Brooklyn.
On my last visit to Portland, the wait for a table at the flagship Pok Pok’s was just absolutely insane as it was during an US holiday long weekend. There was no way I was going to wait 2.5 to 3 hours for a table in the dining room at Pok Pok. Usually, if the wait is less than an hour, I would opt to go across the street to their sister establishment, the Whiskey Soda Lounge, to enjoy one of their signature drinking vinegars while I wait. Pok Pok does take reservations for groups of 5 or more. Since it was just my friend C and I on this visit, we couldn’t make a reservation. What we really just wanted was to get an order of the infamous chicken wings to go. And that’s how we discovered the adjoining “Shack”/Take Out Window at Pok Pok’s. The Shack/To Go Menu is a subset of the main Pok Pok menu and has many of the popular items, including the famous chicken wings.
The dish that has made Pok Pok famous is Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings ($12.50). The fresh chicken wings are first marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep-fried, and then tossed in a caramelized Phu Quco fish sauce with garlic. They are served along with a Vietnamese table salad that contains picked carrots and daikon. These wings are not like anything I’ve ever tasted before. The meat is juicy and succulent while the skin is crispy and coated with such intense flavours from the fish sauce, chilies, garlic, and palm sugar. These wings come in either mild or spicy. I would recommend getting the spicy version if you can handle a bit of heat as the spice really helps to make the dish. I’ve tried the mild version before and thought it lacked the wow factor that the spicy version had. I was pretty pleased that this take-out order of the famous chicken wings tasted as good as the versions that I had previously in the Pok Pok dining room.
So in the end, we got our fill of the famous wings without the painful wait for a table. Our to go order still took about 15 minutes so the wait wasn’t bad considering it’s freshly made to order. Since I’ve dined at the restaurant several times before already and have tasted a good sampling of their dishes, I don’t really feel the need to actually dine in as none of the dishes were really compelling enough to justify a multi-hour wait for a table. I’m completely happy just stopping by the Shack/To Go window to pick up an order of the famous wings in the future if the wait for a table is too long. Since Pok Pok has become insanely popular, if you do want to go and try to eat in the dining room, my advice would be to either go for lunch or dinner on a weekday.
3226 SE Division St