I sometimes forget there are places to eat down in the docklands. Spencer Street Station acts like a bit of a Berlin Wall, it’s tall, has its own (railway) guards and the people who live on the other side are just that little bit different. Consequently I was quite excited when Mmm organised a Friday night visit to a small Thai restaurant down near the water that she’d heard good things about.
First impressions when you enter Pok Pok are a little confusing. There’s a desk at the bottom of the stairs but you have to go up the stairs and past staff who appear to be doing last minute prep work.
Then you can sit at either of the bigger tables for larger parties if you wanted to indulge in communal dining, or at one of the smaller more personal tables.
The menu is organised into entrees and mains but seems more designed for sharing. Not a problem as we'd managed to assemble a group of eight and consequently got through a good combination of curry, noodle and rice dishes.
Given we got through quite a bit I’ll focus on our favourite items. A surprising number one amongst the entrees and probable favourite for the whole night was the crispy sweet corn fritters. These were little round balls of crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, fried corn goodness. Best thing about them was just how light and fresh they tasted for a deep fried item.
Crispy sweet corn fritters
Things I’d also order again were the school prawns and the fresh spring rolls. The school prawns are kind of like the little brother of soft shell crab, eaten whole with the edible shell providing extra texture. These were served with a choice of sweet chilli or better a chilli mayonnaise dip.
School prawns with chilli mayonnaise dip
I thought the fresh spring rolls were going to be very similar to popiah, a lighter version of a spring roll commonly available in Malaysia and some other parts of East Asia. These are not normally as crispy fried as spring rolls and always feel a much healthier option. While these rolls were similar to popiah in look and texture they came with a sweet sauce on the top. To me anyway this meant the dish wasn’t quite as light and fresh tasting as expected.
Fresh spring rolls
From the mains I thought both the Massaman lamb curry and the roasted duck curry were delicious. In neither case was it really for the sauce, which to be honest I don’t really recall. It was more the rich softness of the duck and the falling apart tenderness of the lamb, served along with what was a pretty good roti.
Massaman lamb curry
Roti that accompanied Massaman lamb curry
Roasted duck curry
Other big hits were the fried flat rice noodles in a dark soy sauce and the Tom Zap wild mushrooms. With the rice noodles I was a little concerned that the soy sauce could have been a bit overwhelming, but the while they looked quite dark the sauce was not overpowering in flavour and I thought the noodles had a good amount of wok hei. Hmmm, I think they had the ‘zap’ part of the Tom Zap right, as these came with an initial chilli and fresh ginger hit which built considerably after a few mouthfuls.
Fried rice noodles in a dark soy sauce
Tom Zap mushrooms
The Gapi Shrimp Paste fried rice and the Pad Thai King Prawns I didn’t really get to try (one dish only goes so far amongst eight), but I found the crisp barramundi with green mango and the spicy drunken noodles a little disappointing. I wouldn’t describe either as bad but I didn’t find the barramundi particularly crisp or flavoursome, and the drunken noodles didn’t have the same sparkle as the soy noodles.
Gapi (shrimp) fried rice
Crisp barramundi with green mango
By this stage we were fairly full but still keen on trying some of the limited range of desserts. Bureaucrat and the Lawyer's roti with mixed berry compote loked very pretty but I didn't try any.
Roti with mixed berry compote
Instead I shared in a roti with condensed milk and sugar. While I’d have liked a little more milk this Thai version of roti bom is a tasty ticket to mega-calorie city.
Thai version of roti bom
The other dessert, the coconut ice cream in a sweet brioche sandwich, was the only fail on the night. The unanimous view of those who ordered it was that the brioche was hard and unappetising.
Coconut ice cream in sweet brioche sandwich
A spacious, modern Melbourne industrial style restaurant with friendly staff and pretty good food. I don’t think it pushes any new culinary boundaries but it was tasty and would be somewhere that would suit a wide range of tolerance for spicy food. Really, just a very solid place to eat at a reasonable price.
Food – 8
Service – 7.5
Ambience – 7.5
Price – 7
803 Bourke Street
Docklands VIC 3008
Tel: (03)9620 4580