Restaurant: Pok Pok LA
Location: 978 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012. (213) 613-1831
Date: January 29, 2016
Cuisine: Northern Thai
Rating: Spicy & Good “high end” Thai
Pok Pok is essentially a Northern Thai restaurant, but unlike most of it’s LA brethren, it’s fairly high end, with a real bar, some hipster cred, and a reputation that spans beyond the city. I came here with the Babykillers to enjoy and to open a whole mess of Grand Cru Raveneau!
2007 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. Burghound 94. Here the nose is every bit as elegant if not more so but it’s distinctly cooler and somehow more distant yet the strong Chablis character is immediately evident as the nose is a classic combination of green fruit, warm stone, iodine and distilled extract of sea water and this intense saline quality continues onto the equally cool, brilliantly defined and stunningly well balanced flavors that are crystalline in their purity on the driving finish. This does a slow but steady build in intensity from the mid-palate on back and the length is flat out amazing.
2004 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. Burghound 94. This is a much different and classically styled with an ultra pure nose of ripe but austere green fruit brimming with oyster shell and seawater notes that introduce elegant, pure and sweet flavors all wrapped in a beautifully balanced and wonderfully detailed finish that also displays some austerity. This is built on a base of pungent minerality and will require ample time to come around. A Chablis lovers Chablis.
Sai Ua Samun Phrai. Chiang Mai sausage with herbs. Burmese curry powder and aromatics. Grilled and served with Naam Phrik Num (spicy green chili dip). Really first rate sausage. Some kick to the green stuff too.
Laap Thawat Isaan. Deep-fried Iasaan style spicy pork laap with lime leaf, kao khua, chilies, lime juice and herbs. Fried ground spiced pork — what isn’t to love.
Neua Khwai Sawan. Deep-fried marinated dried buffalo with coriander seed and deep fried lime leaves. I’ve had this dish — but it’s usually beef or pork — and we call it “Thai Beef Jerky”. Here do they mean American Bison? Or Thai water buffalo? No idea. Still, it was the best “Thai Beef Jerky” I’ve had. Much more tender than usual.
Phat Hoi Laai. Stir-fried manila clams with chilies, galangal, garlic, krachai, and Thai basil. Nice clams. Then I slurped down what I thought was basil — it was some kind of green Thai chili and was INSANELY hot. It burned my throat for like an hour. And this is from a guy who slurps down Szechuan Chili Oil at least once a week.
1999 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. Burghound 90. I found this fascinating as Valmur is my favorite of the Chablis grands crus and is normally the most austere and understated of them all, yet this was positively “friendly” with its round, almost easy fruit and flavors and while there is certainly breed and class here, it lacks the same driving persistence and pungency of the Blanchot. To be sure, there is plenty of wine here and there is a hint of finishing austerity but this is not at the same level as the Blanchot. All of that said, I still quite like the wine and while it is nearing its apogee, it could use another year or two of cellar time. Consistent notes.
1998 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. Showing wonderfully. Saline. Full. Plenty of rich fruit. Very expressive on the nose and palate. Finish is just a touch short. But otherwise excellent. Salty!
Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. Natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar. Deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic and served with Vietnamese table salad. Really nice wings. Juicy, with a great sweet/tangy garlic flavor.
Khao Soi w/ chicken. Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with our secret curry paste recipe and house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Crispy yellow noodles. Love this stuff.
Kao Soi served with house pickled mustard greens, shallots, and roasted chili paste. You dump it in and mix.
Kaeng Awm Neua. Spicy aromatic Northern Thai beef shin stew with dry chilies, tumeric galangal, lemongrass, lime leaf, and coriander root. Comes with sticky rice too. The meat was a bit tough but the sauce was awesome, particularly with rice.
Kaeng Hang Leh. Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, tumeric, tamarind. Burmese curry powder and pickled garlic. A rich dish with Burmese origins. Quite delicious with tender (fatty) meat.
1995 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot. Burghound 89. Advanced but not aged aromas of honeysuckle and a pretty mineral nuance lead to sweet (in the best sense), round, delicious, nicely detailed flavors of excellent length. While there is reasonably good power, the ’95 Blanchots is more a wine of elegance and finesse. This should continue to improve for another few years and I would elect to start drinking this in earnest in two to three years.
1995 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur. Unfortunately corked.
Muu Paa Kham Waan. Boar collar meat rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper. Glazed with soy and sugar. Grilled over charcoal. Tasty stuff. Tangy, salty, with a bit of kick.
A special fish steamed with garlic.
Laap Pet Isaan. Spicy Northeastern Thai chopped duck salad with duck liver and skin. Lemongrass, herbs, toasted rice powder, dried chilies, lime juice and fish sauce. A really nice “meaty” salad.
1983 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot. 93 points. Oldest Rav I’ve had and WOTN. Wow. Rich. Buttered popcorn. Touch of alcohol and heat. As the night progressed developed a distinct coffee aroma on the nose. Love it.
Yam Makheua Yao. Smoky charcoal grilled long eggplant salad with spicy dressing of Thai chilies, lime, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Topped with boiled egg, dry shrimp, pork, prawns, shallots, and crispy garlic.
Kanom Jiin Namm Yea. Coconut curry with ground fish and krachai, made with fresh pressed coconut milk, served over thin rice vermicelli with pickled mustard greens, bean sprouts, bai menglak (lemon basil), and boiled egg. Good stuff, but not quite as good as the Khao Soi.
Papaya Pok Pok. Central Thai-style spicy green papaya salad with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, lime juice, tamarind, fish sauce, garlic, palm sugar, dried shrimp, and peanuts. Made to order in.
Yam Kai Dao. Crispy fried farm egg salad with lettuce, Chinese celery, carrots, onions, garlic, Thai chilies, and cilantro. With a lime, fish sauce, palm sugar dressing. Really nice, with a great vinegary tang.
Da Chom’s Laap Meuang. Northern Thai spicy hand-minced pork “salad” with aromatics, spices, herbs, cracklings, and crispy fried shallots and garlic. Served with phat sot (fresh herbs and raw vegetables, like the duck above). Also good stuff, but this pork one was much saltier than the duck — a bit too salty for my taste.
Sangkhaya Thurian. Sweet sticky rice with durian scented coconut/palm sugar custard. This was a highly “advanced” dessert with that funky durian smell and a creaminess mixed with petrol followed by mango and pineapple finish. I loved it, but as I said, for the “advanced” palette. Stinky even.
Another view of the Ravs.
Above, the sacred flower decanter.
Overall, food was great. I still like Jitlada better, mostly because I’m a crazy curry devotee, and Norther Thai is more “grilled meats” (sort of). But this was great stuff. Very similar to Renu Nakorn. Some complain about the “A list” prices. I.e. it’s 50% more expensive than the whole-in-the-wall places. I personally think it’s worth it because the ingredients are a lot better. With the exception of a few dishes like the wings, Pok Pok doesn’t give up on authenticity as far as I can tell. There is some real heat to the food too (although not quite Jitlada heat).
The wines were awesome as expected. One out of seven corked, par for the course, but the others were all good. Some of the older ones, particularly the 83 really showed well. Raveneau is hands down my favorite Chablis producer. Generally I’m a cote de beaune guy, but Rav has a roundness that most Chablis doesn’t, even if it still has that searing Chablis mineral acidity.