Historically, South Brooklyn's Columbia Street Waterfront District was a desolate area flanked by the cranes, shipping crates, and industrial complex of the Port Authority. It's on the rise now, though, and some of its recent revival should be credited to chef Andy Ricker, who decided to plant a New York offshoot of his Portland-based mini-empire here and quickly became an integral part of the city's dining fabric. Since opening its doors in 2012, Pok Pok Ny has drawn hordes to this stretch for a taste of Ricker's take on Thai. You won't find watered-down curries or pad Thais here (Ricker does have a noodle-specific shop, Pok Pok Phat Thai, down the street). The regional (mostly Northern) Thai fare is bolder and spicier than its southern and Americanized counterparts. That goes for familiar food, like the peppery papaya “Pok Pok,” as well as odder dishes like “Muu Paa Kham Waan,” for which thin slices of charcoal-grilled boar collar are seasoned with a blend of garlic, coriander root, and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar, then doused with a chile-lime-garlic sauce. It's so piquant that iced mustard greens are served on the side to quench the heat. The cocktail list showcases interesting Thai-style drinking vinegars that complement the complex fare as effectively as cheap light beer. Ricker calls himself a Thai copycat, but he has exposed the West to a new frontier of flavors with his inventive cuisine. And even in a city filled with good Thai restaurants, his take is singular.
© 2015 Village Voice, LLC, All Rights Reserved