It says more about New York’s reputation than it slights the West Coast that two beloved Asian outfits, Portland’s Pok Pok and Frisco’s Mission Chinese, have taken their talents eastward. Pok Pok NY, the Thai standout from notably un-Thai chef Andy Ricker (of Vermont), opened last month on the Columbia Street Waterfront (the original Pok Pok will continue its tenure as a Stumptown establishment). Ricker made a soft debut in March with Pok Pok Wing, a dorm room-sized munchie spot on Rivington.
While his new space grew in proportion with the cross-borough move, it will pack in just as close given the steady lines outside. Stuffed hen, crepes with PEI mussels, and a spicy minced pork salad using a recipe inherited from an 84-year-old Thai man are standouts. The entire menu is thoughtfully annotated with hints and recommendations (e.g. Khanom Jiin Naam Ngiew: “Hard to say, easy to eat.”). The dream of Andy Ricker is alive in Brooklyn.
Back on the island of Manhattan, San Francisco’s semi-ironic dive Mission Chinese has opened up a branch on Orchard Street. Maybe chef Danny Bowien wanted more convenient access to his pal Martha Stewart’s studio, or maybe the Food Bank for New York City needed more love—75¢ of each entrée goes to the charity. As Martha notes, Bowien hadn’t cooked Chinese food before starting up at the Frisco shop, but his lamb cheek dumplings, kung pao pastrami, and thrice-cooked bacon with rice cakes don’t report to General Tso anyway. The Twin Peaks-meets-dragon-paraphernalia interior is tight, but it’s open ’til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, so feel free to stumble in when you’re feeling charitably saucy.
Joan Didion, in an early essay on New York, laments that after her relocation from the West she knew she didn’t belong here because she wasn’t from here. But after spending half her adult life in New York, she’s just as good an example as any that if you can make it here, well. You know.