Pok Pok and Xi'an Famous Foods Ring in the Lunar New Year
Like any holiday worth celebrating, Lunar New Year is an opportunity to feast on good food with good company. That seemed to be the general feeling this weekend at Pok Pok Suan—the event facility that housed Pok Pok Ny before it moved down the block in November—where Pok Pok and Jason Wang of Xi'an Famous Foods collaborated on a five-course dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
For $150 per person, diners enjoyed Chinese dumplings, tofu and pork belly soup, stewed pork belly buns, spicy longevity noodles with pork belly, and fried mochi for dessert, all with unlimited prosecco, rice wine, and beer.
The menu alternated comfortably between Thai and Chinese flavors, but maintained the distinct feeling of a homestyle meal that could've been prepared by someone's mother, in an intimate space that encouraged good conversation with neighboring strangers.
The first three courses had the feeling of a tasting menu: hearty spinach and lamb dumplings, a surprisingly light and clean Khaeng Jeut tofu and pork soup, and a meaty Muu Sam Chan Pha Lo (stewed pork belly) served with buns and a tangy tomatillo sauce. Then the longevity noodles arrived.
You can find a version Mount Qi pork longevity noodles on Xi'an's menu, where they're described as "sour and spicy," an amusingly understated way to describe the ridiculous heat from chili oil and the numbing sting of its Sichuan peppercorns. They turned a pleasant meal into a physically and emotionally draining roller coaster that somehow ended with fried tang yuan. Well done, Xi'an, well done.
After dinner, I spoke with Xi'an's Jason Wang and Pok Pok's Brendan Newell, where Wang modestly described his desire to host a Lunar New Year dinner like this in New York after hosting similar events in Los Angeles. When I asked about the noodles (while still recovering), he noted that "both [Pok Pok and Xi'an] deal in strong flavors," and ultimately, he didn't want to host a "monotonous" dinner. As for the heavy emphasis on pork belly, Jason's "official answer" was that "fat always symbolizes prosperity," but in reality, the dishes they liked most happened to be the ones with pork, and it all just kind of ended up that way.