This week, LA Weekly's Besha Rodell reviews Pok Pok LA, Andy Ricker's homage to authentic Thai cuisine that has received a saltier reception in LA than the lauded chef's other restaurants in Portland and New York. This, of course, is in large part due to the fact that LA already had an outstanding Thai food scene, but because of the "patronizing tone" that comes with every meal.
Context aside, the food is damn good:
But most of the food — the food itself, not the idea of the food or the way it's delivered or any of the surrounding context — is immensely satisfying. There are little slices of boar collar, tender and piggy, rubbed with garlic and coriander root, glazed with soy and sugar and lightly caramelized over charcoal. There's the salty, spicy laap pet issan, a salad made of duck liver and skin, rife with lemongrass and fish sauce. Ricker's hoi thawt, a broken crepe with steamed fresh mussels, is a marvel of texture: The lacy, crispy edges give way to an eggy center that's almost creamy, the still-soft mussels adding to that creaminess but also providing a contrasting mineral tang. [LAW]
But it is hard to look past the hospitality issues:
Right or wrong, there's a sense that Pok Pok lacks hospitality, that the stern paternalistic voice on the FAQ page of the restaurant's website ("We do not make 'fusion' food here; everything has been researched, eaten and/or prepared in the country of its origin prior to being put on the Pok Pok menu") carries over to the dining experience. This is evidenced by the too-much-food-on-the-table issue (if you tell me, "That's how they do it in Thailand," I might scream), by the now-abandoned 5 percent service charge (tips were also expected) and the nonrefundable $20 deposit to make reservations. L.A. diners balked at both. They balked at the perceived overtone that we were supposed to feel lucky that Ricker and crew decided to bless us with this restaurant, that we should be deliriously thankful for its very existence. [LAW]
Ultimately, B. Rod deems that "a lot of the food at Pok Pok is really delicious," and gives it three stars.