Pok Pok Phat Thai
Before each home game this season, ClipperBlog will run “ClipperBlog Eats,” a restaurant recommendation from its resident restaurant reviewer, Ben Mesirow. Below is today’s suggestion:
Today should be a celebration, one of the most important games in Clipper history and a chance for the team to exorcise some demons and firmly establish their contender status, but right now it just feels nerve racking. So for today’s pre-game meal, the thing that sounds most appealing (other than a big glass of cheap whiskey) is something comfortable, quick, and simple – something like a generous plate of Thai noodles at Pok Pok Phat Thai.
Pok Pok Phat Thai is the first LA outpost of Andy Ricker’s bi-coastal Pok Pok empire, and it opened in a little stall in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza to much fanfare. A few months on, though, the insanity has calmed down, and these days the lines are more than approachable. Walk by Chego, keep moving (at least for now) past Scoops, and behind a scattering of picnic tables you will see Pok Pok’s little storefront, a tiny room with one counter for ordering and a metal bar running around the walls, just wide enough for a plate and a few jars of condiments.
The menu is simple, a handful of noodle dishes and a couple of stir-fry and fried rice options with permutations mostly based on various types of meat. The eponymous Phat Thai is the specialty, and it is excellent, not quite the cloying concoction you may be used to but fabulous all the same, just a little funky with fish sauce and tamarind, delicious noodles stuck together and jiggling in a lovely almost gelatinous pile, accompanied by crushed peanuts and lime. The Kuaytiaw Khua Kai is outstanding as well, a textural marvel of crunchy stir-fried noodles and chicken and onion tossed with green lettuce, which adds a welcome layer of freshness and vegetal flavor. You won’t go wrong with Phat Sii Ew or the crepe Hoi Thawt either. You won’t go wrong with anything, pretty much, as long as you make sure to heed the disclaimer posted on the wall – the food comes out intentionally underseasoned so that you can adjust levels to your personal preferences, and each table has a four-pack of condiments for a reason.
Those condiments – sugar, spicy chile powder, mild chilies in vinegar, and spicy chilies in fish sauce – are all excellent, and merit some inclusion in your dish. The chile powder tastes something like hot cheeto mix, the holiest of all chile powders, and the chilies in fish sauce pack an incredible umami-laden punch. Play with them all, adjust levels, eat, and adjust again – in these stressful playoff times it is a great relief to have something you can actually control. 727 N. Broadway, Los Angeles 90012; http://www.pokpokphatthaila.com