It’s been a while since Jonathan Gold had something truly heavy to say while weighing in on one of Los Angeles’ ever-extending crop of new restaurants. More often than not the recently unmasked reviewer chooses instead to tackle the good with the bad in (mostly) equal measure, which is exactly the case with his recent LA Times filing on Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok Phat Thai in Chinatown.
Gold doesn’t love the ambiance, the sometimes shaky details and the pace of the food, but can’t help but alight at the quality of the dishes themselves:
And the noodles explode into loveliness, like phat Thai only somehow better, perhaps because the noodles have been cooked correctly, sautéed over a low heat rather than blasted with maximum flame, and the subtle, flowery fragrance of tamarind starts to bloom.
The rudimentary phat Thai has become a wonderful plate of noodles, possibly even better than the spicy, tart version at Krua Thai in North Hollywood, which until now has been the standard-bearer in town.
Gold goes on to extoll the virtues of finishing each dish yourself (at Pok Pok Phat Thai, they're left ungarnished on purpose, so that each customer can fine-tune their own perfect plate), noting that "It's a little like cooking through a recipe that instructs you to salt to taste. It will always taste better the third time around."
The elsewhere: Midtown Lunch goes crawling for dumplings in the SGV, Darin Dines gets caught up at Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach, Zagat rolls through the dishes at Le Comptoir and Food GPS talks Orange County craft beer.