Pok Pok, Portland

I was in Portland, Oregon over the weekend for the JET Alumni Association Regional Technology Conference.  On Sunday, after the Conference ended, I went with LL to check out Portland’s much acclaimed Pok Pok Thai restaurant.   The restaurant is a bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth the trip.  It’s built to resemble  a Southeast Asian pub shack (which is a little cold for Portland, but they had space heaters).  The Suntory whiskey I had with the meal helped warm me up too.  Despite the shiver, I have to say that this was some of the best Thai food I have ever had outside of Thailand.  No generic pad thai or “traffic light” (red, yellow, green) curries here.  Only intensely flavorful dishes meant for sharing, featuring hand pressed coconut milk and the freshest of herbs.

This is what we had:

Yam Samun Phrai ($9.00)

Special Northern Thai herbal salad with ginger, carrot, parsnip, betel leaf, basil, lime leaf, sawtooth, fried shallots, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds, dry shrimp, ground pork and Thai chilies in a coconut milk dressing.

I’ve never had anything like this before, but it kind of reminded me of a Japanese kinpira on acid. A definite party going on in my mouth. A taste revelation.

Coconut Rice ($2.50)
Definitely necessary to counteract the atomic Thai chilies masquerading as scallions in the salad

Sii Khrong Muu Yaang ($11 – not pictured)

Carlton Farms baby back ribs marinated in whisky, soy, honey, ginger and Thai spices. slow grilled over charcoal and served with 2 spicy dipping sauces.

I’m not usually a ribs person, but these were very well executed. They kind of reminded me of jerky or Cantonese char siu, in a good way.

Khao Soi Kai ($11.50)

Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with our secret curry paste recipe, natural chicken on the bone and house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, crispy yellow noodles and roasted chili paste. Chiang Mai specialty, with Burmese origins.

My favorite Thai noodle soup! It’s not on many Thai restaurant menus in the US, but it should be. Pok Pok’s khao soi is rustic, with big chunks of chicken on the bone, falling apart tender, and a perfectly balanced coconut broth. I wish there were a little bit more broth though, ’cause I downed every drop.

Sankhaya Fak Thong ($6.50)

Steamed Kabocha pumpkin, filled with coconut-palm sugar custard scented with pandanus leaf.

The kind of expected this to be warm, or at least room temperature, but it came cold. Still really good though. I think maybe just a dash of salt would have offset some of the sweetness and made the flavor of the kabocha really pop, but that would be gilding the lily. BTW, the desert portion was more than enough for 2 people to share.

Pok Pok
3226 se division, pdx : 503 232 1387

Farley’s and Hazel’s


Farley’s and Hazel’s Kitchen have become my usual San Francisco Sunday morning spot for a one-two punch of caffeine and breakfast burrito.  Farley’s is a coffee shop, and Hazel’s is a tiny deli/takeout joint.  They are located right next door to each other in in Potrero Hill.  You can order food to-go from Hazel’s and eat at Farley’s or when the weather is nice, they have tables outside on the street.  As a creature of habit, I always order the breakfast burrito with tofu at Hazel’s, so I can’t comment on the other food, but the other stuff looks good too.  Everything is fresh and homemade.  Farley’s is an shabby-chic anti-Starbucks, with hip and friendly baristas and an awesome selection of magazines for sale (including my favorite, Monocle).

1315 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Hazel’s Kitchen
1319 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107



I had dinner at Yamo, a hole-in-the-wall Burmese place in the Mission tonight.  When I say hole-in-the-wall, I really mean it, it’s just 10 seats along a long, narrow counter looking on to the kitchen area with three Cantonese ladies engaging in a frantic ballet of taking orders, cooking, pouring water and collecting money.  I had the fish chowder noodles (above), which consist of rice noodles in a velvety turmeric-spiced broth with shredded fish, and topped with crunchy fried lentils.  The noodles, like most of Yamo’s entrees, were only $5.25.  CASH ONLY!

I also recommend the fried rice.  They don’t serve alcohol, but if you want more than water, I suggest the fresh young coconut, which is literally a whole coconut that they cut open with a cleaver in front of you.

As far as Burmese food goes, Yamo is not as good as Mandalay in the Richmond, but it’s much closer to home and the prices can’t be beat.


3406 18th St
(between Mission St & San Carlos St)
San Francisco, CA 94110


Horatius: Portuguese Style Tuna Salad

Photo: Portuguese-style tuna salad ($11.50)
Line caught tuna conserva, new potatoes, garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, cage free egg, red onion and parsley dressed with Victor Guedes olive oil and red wine vinegar

I went to check out Horatius, a “market gallery, bistro, wine bar and event venue” at the base of Potrero Hill today.  The food is simple and flavorful California cuisine with strong Mediterranean and Portuguese influences, reflecting the founder and CEO Horacio Gomes’ Portuguese roots.  I had the Portuguese-style tuna salad, which resembles the classic French salade niçoise but with the addition of chickpeas and spinach.  A tasty and light lunch for a sunny Saturday in San Francisco.

350 Kansas Street
(between 16th and 17th Streets)
San Francisco, CA 94103

Live Sushi Bar


Live Sushi Bar
2001 17th St (at Kansas St in Potrero Hill)
San Francisco, CA 94103-5012
(415) 861-8610‎

On Sunday, After spending the whole day outside watching the San Francisco Pride parade and checking out the festival in front of City Hall, I went back to the tranquility of Potrero Hill and treated myself to a nice sushi dinner at Live Sushi Bar.  I ordered the Live Sushi Combo – 6 pieces of nigiri, 4 pieces of sashimi and 6 pieces of spicy tuna roll for $16.95 and the sake tasting sampler ($9.50).  They kind of have a weird name and a logo that looks like the Jesus fish, but they are close to my summer crash pad, so it’s become a good place for the occasional splurge.  Last time I had dinner here, I had the grilled shio saba (salted mackerel) and tempura, which were decent, but nothing mind blowing.  This time, my decision to actually order sushi paid off.  The sushi rice was perfectly prepared and the fish tasted very fresh and clean.  I’m not sure what is going on with the Pepto-Bismol-colored salad dressing, but it didn’t taste bad.


Above: Sakes in the intended sampling order from right to left (click on image to view enlarged version)

Masumi “Okuden Kantsukuri” – 真澄 奥伝寒造り (Junmai – 純米)

Dewazakura “Oka” – でわざくら 桜花 (Ginjo – 吟醸)

Hoyo “Kura no Hana” – 鳳陽 蔵の華 (Daiginjo – 大吟醸)

The Masumi tasted like a pretty standard junmai to me, a good starter sake.  The Dewazakura, with a seductive floral bouquet, was definitely my favorite.  My white wine taste tends towards Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, so it’s no surprise that I like the fruity floral sake.  The Hoyo had a strong star anise taste in it’s flavor profile, which I would expect from sake.  It went really well with the earthy spiciness of the spicy tuna rolls, and I bet it would

One of Adam’s friends suggested that I check out another sushi place called Umi, which is also in Potrero Hill.  I will definitely be there to check it out soon!