If, around noon today, you felt the axis of the culinary earth shift some in downtown Los Angeles, you would not be wrong. Andy Ricker's much-anticipated Thai noodle shop in Chinatown finally opened its doors a few hours ago.
Ricker, whose Thai food empire in Portland, Ore., is now composed of four restaurants, had previously expanded to New York. Pok Pok Phat Thai is his first restaurant in Los Angeles, the first of two, as his larger Pok Pok LA is scheduled to open later on in the spring in Chinatown's Mandarin Plaza.
Pok Pok Phat Thai is a tiny shop a few doors down from Chego in the Far East Plaza on Broadway. There are 14 seats and counter space inside, along with a kitchen, with extra seating at the picnic tables outside in the plaza courtyard.
On the menu is, as you'd expect from the name, phat Thai, the plate of stir-fried noodles that's the national dish of Thailand. Originally introduced in the '40s as a tribute to the then-king, it's a purely Thai invention: phat means "stir-fry," according to the folks at the restaurant; Thai means, well, Thai. There are variations, with shrimp and/or pork, and a vegetarian version.
There are also other noodle dishes, as well as a few side dishes, including crepes and Ricker's spicy peanuts. If you've spent any time at Sen Yai, Ricker's Portland noodle house — or, of course, the Pok Pok Phat Thai in New York — there will be much that's familiar. Right now, there's no soup on the menu, although there will be at the upcoming Pok Pok LA. There are also Ricker's signature drinking vinegars on the menu here, 16 regular vinegars and some seasonal ones: today's were turmeric and Chinese celery.
And of course you can buy Ricker's Pok Pok cookbook ($35) and your very own Pok Pok T-shirt ($20) while you're waiting for your paper plate of phat sii ew (noodles, pork, Chinese broccoli) or hoi thawt (broken crepe with mussels) or phak buung fai daeng (water spinach and yellow beans).
The restaurant is currently open every day at 11:30 a.m., in theory, as the exact hours are yet to be determined; they're going to be closed on New Year's Day and probably on Mondays, at least in the beginning. Today there was a longer line for lunch at Chego than there was here. Probably the last time that'll happen in a while.
Pok Pok Phat Thai, 727 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, 213-628-3071, www.pokpok.com.
Lotsa pictures of noodles and chiles on Instagram @ascattergood.