5 Things You Should Know About Pok Pok Phat Thai Before Trashing it on Yelp

Chinatown’s emergence as the hottest new food neighborhood in L.A. took another major step forward in the final days of 2014 when Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok Phat Thai joined Roy Choi’s Chego and Scoops in the Chinatown Plaza (Eggslut’s Ramen Champ has since joined them as well.) You likely have heard of Ricker’s brand of Thai food, thanks to super popular restaurants in Portland and New York.  But not everybody has welcomed Pok Pok with open arms and their Yelp page has quickly devolved into a mess of complaints, some fair but most completely unfair for a restaurant that is less than a month old.  Before you jump into the fray with a crappy review of your own, here are 5 things you should probably know about the new Pok Pok, complete with quotes we got from Ricker, who is currently in Thailand.

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1.  Pok Pok Phat Thai isn’t Pok Pok.  So you went to Pok Pok on that last trip to Portland and loved the chicken wings?  Congrats!  This isn’t Pok Pok. Pok Pok is a full restaurant, a branch of which will be opening later this year up the street in the Mandarin Plaza.  This is Pok Pok Phat Thai, a quick service noodle shop dedicated to the kind of sautéed fast food they serve on the streets of Thailand.  If you want the wings, you’re going to have to wait a little while longer.

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2.  Everything is cooked to order. “It’s food cooked by humans over fire,” says Ricker. “Not a computer screenshot digitally printed.  Will there be inconsistencies, especially in the first month or so? Yes. It’s a 480 sq ft space with 12 seats, a 7 foot hood and room for 4 employees. If there is a line out the door then food is going to take 10-15 minutes to make. In the first few days we had some much longer wait times, but that was in the first few days, and no longer the case.  Remember, we cook every plate to order, from raw.  We do not cook big quantities in a giant wok and put in a steam table.”  So if you want to blame somebody for the long wait times, blame the one guy in line taking 7 orders of food back to his office. Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t take the food to go.  This food was meant to be eaten right after it’s scraped off the pan.

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3.  You’ve Got to Use the Condiments.  The most frequent complaint seems to be that the food is bland compared to all the other Thai food in L.A. It’s worth noting you’re supposed to adjust the flavoring to your own personal taste, using the condiments on the table.  Like your pad thai sweet?  Add a bit of sugar.  Like it funky?  There’s fish sauce.  Sour?  There’s vinegar. And if you like it spicy there’s chile powder. It’s laughable to hear people use this as proof that Pok Pok is somehow inauthentic, and that while “people in Portland or New York might not know the difference we here in L.A. know good Thai food!”  Well, guess what.  That “bland” noodle dish you got at Pok Pok Phat Thai probably tastes more like a noodle dish you’d get on the street in Thailand than the version from your ***insert your favorite Thai Town restaurant here***.  Would I personally prefer to know exactly how Andy Ricker thinks each dish should taste?  Sure. Is Pok Pok’s pad thai (sic) my favorite in L.A.?  Definitely not.  But you should at least know that the dishes from Pok Pok Phat Thai are made from “really specific, old school recipes”,  and that Ricker “doesn’t expect everyone to get it or even like it.”

4.  The place has only been open for less than a month. Ok, so let’s say you know the first three things and were still disappointed.  At least give the place a month before shitting on it. Right after they opened (for the first time), PPPT was actually shut down by the health department over a licensing issue, forcing them to replace a significant portion of their staff, all while Ricker has been in Thailand.  “Will the food be more consistent when new employees are trained and we have found our groove? Of course! We cannot manage people’s expectations, we can only try hard to meet our own high standards,” says Ricker.

5. Andy Ricker Doesn’t Give a Fuck About Your Yelp Review. “After 9 years of this shit, I no longer read yelp reviews.”

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BONUS: It’s also worth mentioning that the namesake dish at Phat Thai is not the best thing on the menu. And neither is the pad see ew.  In other words, if you’re passing judgement without trying the kuay tiaw, the sautéed water spinach or the mussels crepe you’re not getting the full picture.

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