Pok Pok

Restaurants, Thai Chinatown
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Pok Pok
Photograph: Erin Kuschner
Da Chom's Laap Meuang

Pok Pok arrives in Chinatown, joining its nearby sister restaurant Pok Pok Phat Thai in bringing Thai street food to LA. Unlike Pok Pok Phat Thai, there is liquor—a full list of cocktails (all $12), plus beer, wine and plenty of bourbon, whiskey and scotch. The cocktails get a Thai twist, like the Vietnamese Coffee, Grown Up Style (Vietnamese coffee spiked with brandy) or the Heat Ray (tequila, Som celery drinking vinegar, fresh lime and Thai chili). There's also a "Drinking Food" category on the menu at this location, with dishes like Laap Thawt Isaan (deep-fried spicy pork laap with lime leaf, $8) and Plaa Mauk King (char grilled dried Thai cuttlefish, $7).

The Da Chom's Laap Meuang ($17), a plate of spicy hand-minced pork "salad," comes piled high with aromatics, spices, herbs, cracklings and crispy fried shallots. Some of the spicier dishes, such as this one, are served with phak sot (fresh herbs and raw vegetables), so that you can take a bit of cucumber to cool down after an especially hot forkful. An order of sticky rice is encouraged with most of the shared dishes, including the Kai Yaang—a half ($14) or whole ($24) grilled chicken stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro that is one of Pok Pok's signature items. Also fantastic: Phak Buung Fai Daeng ($10), red fire water spinach with a hefty serving of Thai chilies. For dessert, the Pok Pok Affogato ($8) is a fun alternative to the usual version, made with condensed milk ice cream drowned in a shot of Vietnamese coffee, with fluffy house made Thai-style crullers on the side.


Venue name: Pok Pok
Address: 978 N Broadway
Los Angeles
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 11:30am-Midnight
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Pok Pok LA is classic Thai food with gourmet flourish.  From the decor to the music, even though you're in sparse downtown LA/Chinatown, you'll feel like you could be in a small cafe in Southeast Asia.  LA is home to the only designated Thai Town in the United States, so if you live here, you're certainly not at a loss when it comes to delicious Thai food.  The price point here is definitely higher than what you'd find in Thai Town, but with that extra buck definitely comes extra bang as far as preparation.  Portion sizes are hearty, and if you do a family style or multi-course meal, you will have leftovers.  As I learned--fill up on deep fried pumpkin, wind up bringing home your entire fried chicken dish to eat for lunch the next day (still delicious cold!).  Seasonings and sauces are all unique and tasty.  Watch out, Thai spiciness levels are in effect here--I asked whether the papaya salad was spicy and was told it was, "a little bit"--I couldn't eat it, so fans of mild food beware their "a little bit" spicy designation :)