I did laugh out loud and possibly may have even done a chicken walk to the sound of Portland’s hottest restaurant, Pok Pok. Having discovered a very decisive and accurate listing of some of America’s best restaurants, Pok Pok had been on my radar and as it so happened that I had a friend who I was visiting in Portland, the opportunity was there for the taking. To bolster this decision, a couple of friendly diners with whom I struck up a foodie rapport at Red Farm in New York further mentioned Pok Pok’s claim to culinary fame as one of America’s finest Asian restaurants. Having won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef, Northwest 2011, Andy Ricker’s brand of Northern Thai cuisine has no problems filling the rafters, with people constantly queueing to sample the fare. Luckily, being a table of two not opposed to sitting at the bar, we were let in almost immediately to start our feasting….
It goes without saying that when a restaurant says they don’t take reservations, you need to go early. Or so I thought. Going early just meant that there weren’t that many people standing in line, though on this occasion, I had the game of numbers on my side – I was without company. A lone diner, a solitary companion, who moved past the disgruntled group of 4 who were told to come back in 2 hours and swiftly to a tiny corner of standing space at the bar, feeling smug, hungry and a little bit excited. This was a day of Asian food nirvana, a day when my endorphins and all other feel food factors were firing on all cylinders, but just how good was Red Farm going to be after a lunch at Fatty Crab? Would the food make up for the discomfort of having to stand for the entire meal, staring at a wooden beam, waiters rushing by, occasionally bumping into you.. well, the good thing about Red Farm is that you could have been made to stand and eat with your plate in your hand and your glass balanced precariously on your head, and you’d still run out of the front door shouting at people to queue up as quickly as they could and wait for 4 hours to get a table.
There’s street food, and then there is street food on steroids! The funny thing about being a foodie is that one always has a complete list of restaurants to eat at whenever we go travelling, leaving little to chance, especially when it’s a good Mecca such as New York. What I was glad for, however, was deciding to leave a few slots open to take up recommendations, and there was one unanimous decision from friends across the board and from different walks of my life. That decision was called Fatty Crab – not a restaurant, judging by its sound, made for the likes of me with crustacean allergies, but I was urged to call upon Shakespeare and look beyond the name. As it turned out, there was a branch of Fatty Crab in West Village, right next to the High Line (a disused elevated railway line, now converted into a public walkway) which I wanted to stroll down and thus a lunch date with a dear friend from college was born.
New York, New York…one only has to mention that name and a smile immediately erupts on everyone’s face and they start waxing lyrical about their love for the Big Apple. No less is everyone’s view that it is truly one of the greatest, if not THE greatest city in the world for food – long gone is Paris’ dominance, for New York is apparently where the most exciting food and surely the most varied food is to be found, so for a first visit, it was only befitting that I spend a fair 2 weeks slowly expanding my waistline, beginning with Southeast Asian fare.