Friday, November 25, 2011

Getting Out, and Over the Turkey

Khao Soi Kai at Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon

While the rest of you are dreaming of turkey soup and late night sandwiches, I am fantasizing about an entirely different Day After Thanksgiving experience: eating out.  After a day heavy with starch and sugar, I wake up Friday morning craving anything other than Thanksgiving food- light and luscious sushi, crispy beef tacos, a bowl of fragrant laksa.  The best part is, particularly if you find yourself in a big city on Friday, the restaurants are empty, the usual crowds dispersed to the countryside to be with family or to the mall for Black Friday specials.  Now is the time to eat well, eat ethnic, and eat out.

Tonight, we eat at Nobu Fifty Seven, part of our “Staycation” in New York City.  It is not often you can call Nobu on a Friday night, hours before your desired dinner time and get a table for two no problem. 

I imagine this ease of getting into popular restaurants extends to other big city dining destinations.  If I had found myself in another American metropolis today, here are a few very popular restaurants serving food that is light years away from Thanksgiving cuisine, where you might just be able to snag a last minute table hours before dinnertime.

Ping and Pok Pok, Portland:  My excitement over this Portland-based mini chain of South East Asian themed restaurants can hardly be contained, and I am not alone given the lines that normally form just to get into these two restaurants.  Not specifically true to any one country, the menus span the region taking some liberties with dishes like Vietnamese style chicken wings at the otherwise Thai Pok Pok but ultimately the group of restaurants authentically represent the flavors of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia with even a tip of conical hat to Yunnan, China.  One taste of the Nonya style green beans at Ping, bathed in spicy coconut sauce and sprinkled with fried shallots, and Aunt Susan’s green bean casserole will be a distant memory.

Brasserie Beck, Washington D.C.:  If I was in DC and had some calories to spare after Thanksgiving, I’d head to Brasserie Beck.  This K Street restaurant is typically packed during the week with suits from downtown, but on a holiday weekend I imagine it clears out.  I’d start with a tart Belgian sour ale to cleanse the palate, a welcome change of pace from the flowing red wines of yesterday.  From there I’d move onto a platter of mussels plump and served up in a sizzling cast iron skillet.  Fennel and chorizo would be a bold and flavorful combo particularly nice when paired with a towering cone of crisp fries.  After so many spuds boiled, mashed, and baked, those French fries sure will taste good.

Rivera, Los Angeles:  There may be taco trucks on every corner in Los Angeles, but Latin-themed restaurant Rivera is not of that genre.  At trip to Rivera tonight comes with the benefit of almost no traffic, most people having skipped town earlier in the week, and the chance to leisurely sample from Chef John Rivera Sedlar’s ambitious menu of Latin dishes spanning three continents.  A bowl of posole gets hit with truffle and oregano.  Banana leaf wrapped pork shoulder is done pibil style but cooked à la molecular gastronomists, sous vide.  Rivera is a far cry from the taco stand and even further removed from turkey memories of yesterday.  And the Friday night of a holiday weekend in downtown LA, you might even find street parking. 

Pok Pok, 3226 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon
Ping, 102 NW 4th Ave., Portland, Oregon
Brasserie Beck, 1101 K Street NW, Washington, DC
Rivera, 1050 S. Flower St. #102, Los Angeles, CA

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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