About a year ago Wifey and I tried out Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant owned by local (and now also in NYC) legend Andy Ricker. It was good, but not necessarily what we seek out on a regular basis. His restaurant in downtown Portland - in Chinatown to be specific - is called Ping and is more of a "drinking food" type of place. That is to say, right in our wheelhouse. Last weekend we stopped in for happy hour.
Ping serves dishes influenced from all over southeast Asia. Whether coming in for lunch, dinner, or happy hour you will get a different menu, and yes, for happy hour you must order one drink per person. Not in an alcohol mood we each opted for one of the very popular drinking vinegars Ricker has developed, called Som ($4 each). Som comes in many flavors and is mixed with one part of the base flavor and four parts soda or water. I ordered raspberry, Wifey ordered pineapple. Both were very good with great fruit flavor, the raspberry on the tart end of things and the pineapple pleasantly sweet but not overly so.
We ended up ordering half the happy hour menu, starting with shrimp chips.
Just like at Pok Pok, these were fantastic. Light, fluffy, crunchy and bursting with shrimpiness. And only $1? They go a long ways too.
The second dish was salapao, a Thai-style steamed bun stuffed with shredded pork and topped with fried shallots for $3.
This was my second-favorite dish of the meal. The bun itself was light and fluffy, still moist, and the shallots added a great burst of flavor. And that pork? Oh my - see for yourself.
The meat melted in your mouth, just sweet enough that the scallions were a great contrast. I told Wifey I could eat these all day. It probably wouldn't be a good idea, but I'd do it.
One of the things Ping is known for are their skewers, so we ordered a chicken breast skewer topped with plum sauce and shiso (the greens in the picture) for $2.
It was...cute. Does it look tiny? It was tiny. The sauce was nice but the meat itself a tad on the bland side. Wifey and I agreed this was our least favorite dish.
Next up, a prawn skewer, also for $2. You get three grilled prawns and a dish with salt and pepper, plus two slices of lime. We were instructed to squeeze the lime into the salt and pepper, then dip the prawns in there (after shelling) to eat.
Wow. Just wow. These prawns were perfectly cooked, still very moist but not underdone, and the flavor of dipping the meat in the salt/pepper/lime mixture was excellent. These I could eat all day, too. Not only were they tastier than the chicken skewer, but you get twice as much - seemingly - as the chicken for the same price.
Last up was the famous Kobayashi dog. This is a beef frank topped with teriyaki, wasabi mayo, cucumber relish, toasted nori, and bonito flakes for $5.
I'm not even sure where to begin with this dish full of awesomeness. Not only is it a pool of ingredients I wouldn't have thought to put together, but the wasabi mayo was not overpowering at all and the cucumber relish added a surprising freshness that just worked. Well no, it didn't just work - it was amazing. Not healthy, but amazing.
The total happy hour bill came to $21 and we were both full. Considering $8 of that was the two drinks, that's pretty much a steal of a meal. Saturday afternoon wasn't busy at all either, which surprised me a bit. Service was good, food and drink was good, parking was available, it wasn't busy...we will absolutely be going back.
Oh, and if you are from out of town and can't find Ping, just keep an eye out for this Portland landmark.
Ping is in the bottom left of this picture. And no, this sign never, ever gets old. Ever.