So, let's call us.... Capoeiristas Anonymous ™.
Selecting a restaurant for our gathering was no easy task. As it turns out, many places insist on groups of 8+ taking on the set menu option, which wasn't necessarily the best fit for us. Thankfully, there were no such restrictions with Pok Pok (801 - 803 Bourke St, Docklands), so in the end, that was where we merrily went. (And I got Simon to come along, too, despite him not being a member of Capoeiristas Anonymous.)
It was a good choice! The food was satisfying, and the service came not only with patience for the shenanigans of our mischievous group, but also a twinkle in the eye.
I kicked off the proceedings with Thai milk iced tea. This is of a similar standard to other Thai places in Melbourne. Pretty sweet, as expected, but still nice and refreshing.
|Pok Pok: Thai milk iced tea ($4).|
For starters, we went with some Bangkok street style fresh spring rolls (soft spring roll wrapped around tender chicken, lap cheong, marinated tofu, steamed bean shoot, finely sliced egg omelette and fresh cucumber served with tamarind relish). I'm not always big on sweet-and-savoury dishes, so while I found it to be pleasant, I wasn't carried away. Simon, on the other hand, was rather infatuated, continually asking me if I could re-create it at home.
|Pok Pok: Bangkok street style fresh spring rolls ($7.5).|
Next up was char-grilled chicken satay (free range chicken marinated in fresh Thai herbs and spices, served with Bangkok street style peanut sauce and cucumber & red onion relish). I really enjoyed this. The chicken was tender and the sauce was thick and satisfying, with the spice and crunch coming through in every bite.
|Pok Pok: Char-grilled chicken satay ($7.5).|
Simon and I shared two mains amongst us. The first one was the Massaman lamb curry with crisp roti bread (Massaman curry of slow-cooked lamb shank, waxy potatoes, onion, fried shallot and crunchy cashew nuts served with freshly cooked roti bread). I had forgotten that most Thai curries - or, at least, many of the ones I've had - tend to be a bit too sweet for me, so perhaps I made a minor mistake in ordering this. The lamb also didn't fall off the bone as easily as I'd hoped. However, the bread was delicious - if a tad greasy - like a flaky, crispy fried love child of roti and naan. It also matched well with the sweetness of the curry, thus rescuing me somewhat from my quandary.
|Pok Pok: Massaman lamb curry with crisp roti bread ($14.5).|
And here's the crowd favourite, roast pork belly and dry green peppercorn (crisp pork belly stir-fried with green peppercorn curry paste, crunchy green beans, kaffir lime leaves, chilli and basil served on Thai jasmine rice). This was so good. Generously spicy, with an amiable crunch, a hint of fattiness, and a touch of stickiness - a smorgasbord of elements that enticed me to tuck in, again and again.
|Pok Pok: Roast pork belly and dry green peppercorn ($13.5).|
I also managed to sneak in a couple of samples from my friends' dishes. (No pictures, though - I didn't want to subject my friends to food-blogger-terrorism, ha!)
The wok-fried Angus beef with oyster sauce (wok tossed Angus beef in oyster sauce with splash of Chinese cooking wine and stir-fried with shimeji mushrooms, broccoli and onion, served with Thai jasmine rice) was a suitably delicious option for J, who wanted non-spicy fare: it's like a more upmarket and elegant take on a Chinese-style stir-fry, complete with a fragrant smokiness from the wok.
I also tasted a spoonful of D's stir-fried chilli basil chicken with fried egg “Krapow Gai Kai Dow” (free range chicken mince lightly stir-fried with chilli & holy basil, snake beans, banana chilli and served with fried egg together on Thai jasmine rice). Once more, I was impressed. This is a familiar dish, one that I've ordered in many other Thai restaurants, and the version here is excellent - something I can recommend.
We couldn't leave without a sugar fix, of course.
I opted for the coconut ice cream in sweet brioche sandwich, which came with the typical Southeast Asian toppings of palm seeds, sweet corn and peanuts. I appreciated the coconut ice cream, which was gentle and not too sweet. I'm not too sure how I feel about everything else - the brioche made this more of a heavy dessert, and the corn seemed slightly dry and half-frozen - so I think I would've been happy to just have the ice cream by itself and forgo the rest.
|Pok Pok: Coconut ice cream with sweet brioche sandwich in syrup, topped with palm seed, sweet corn and roasted peanuts ($6.5).|
The others unanimously decided upon the fried roti with fresh banana and Nutella. It's a small serving, especially compared to what I got, and I only stole a tiny morsel of this. My memory is slightly fuzzy, but I do vaguely remember liking it.
|Pok Pok: Fried roti with fresh banana and Nutella ($8.5).|
When all's said and done, the Capoeiristas Anonymous had a delightful time, and Pok Pok is the sort of place that I would love to have as my local - I lament that it is not so. A few things didn't fully hit the target for me, but several dishes I would very, very joyfully consume again (e.g. the satay, pork belly, Angus beef and chilli-basil chicken mentioned above). Plus, there are yet more affordable items on the menu that caught my eye and begged another visit. I'm up for round two, if anyone else is!