Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pongo's Kitchen & Tap - Thai/Burgers, Petaluma

701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway #C8, Petaluma CA 94954
(707) 765-9800
Parking: in shopping center parking lot
Last Visited: June 2, 2012
Food: 3 stars
Atmosphere: 3 to 4 stars
Service: 2 stars
Price: $ to $$

Sadness.  After visiting Pongo's about a year after my initial visit, I have downgraded the food from 4 stars to 3 stars and service down to 2 stars.  While the flavors are still there for the pumpkin curry, I was thoroughly disappointed by the fact that the steamed rice was not fresh.  I've heard that the food is the highest quality when Pongo is actually in the house, but today, he was off, so the food was also off.  The rice wasn't steaming and was actually a little bit hard.  As I separated the mound of rice, I noticed that it wasn't hot inside. It seemed like it had just been microwaved. 

- Prawn rolls - The menu describes it as fried crispy rolls that are stuffed with prawns and chicken along with red curry and basil.  A ginger chili dipping sauce accompanies the dish. I was pretty disappointed by these rolls.  Five rolls are served on a plate and you pretty much just taste the prawn.  The texture of the other items just blends in and I felt like texture contrast was missing.  The roll lacked a freshness to it and wasn't as crispy as it could have been.  I wouldn't get this again.  $8.50

The service was still amateurish. We had a different server, but when he brought out the plates for our appetizer, he just left them in a pile on the table without distributing them. I was surprised that he left them this way since they weren't busy - there was only one other table of people.  

Pongo's can be really good - they just need to be more disciplined and make sure that the food quality stays as high as possible even when Pongo is away.  If they can do that and perfect the service more, they'll be back on top again.

May 7, 2011 visit
Pongo's opened up about a month ago and has taken over the spot formerly occupied by Julian's.  Located in the same shopping center as G&G Market, it's very accessible and will be a nice addition to this area if it can attract enough clientele.  Fellow foodie James went there a couple of times and recommended it to me highly for Thai food.

After James told me about Pongo's, I tried to find some information about them on the internet, but only found a very sparse Facebook page.  There were some good reviews on yelp, but no visible web presence - no photos, no menu - with a name like Pongo's, I wasn't clear about what kind of restaurant I would be going to try out.   

I was very surprised to find that it was called Pongo's Kitchen and Tap.  That name was still a little confusing, but after I saw the bar with two large screen televisions above it, along with the combination menu of primarily traditional Thai dishes and burgers, I have to admit, I was still a bit confused.  After talking to the owners, it started to make sense.  Pongo had partnered with another family and their two ideas had combined to form this restaurant.  While burgers and sandwiches may serve the bar folks, Thai food with fun comments like "he can cook; he really can" to describe Nick's special pan fried rice noodles, are the highlight of the menu. 
Pongo was formerly the chef at Jhanthong Banbua in Santa Rosa (one of my former favorite lunch places when I worked in the area) and he also owned the Thai fast food station at Northgate Mall.  Knowing he once cooked at Jhanthong, I had a feeling I would enjoy the food.

- Chicken Satay - Marinated, grilled chicken breast skewers served with a peanut dipping sauce and a cucumber salad cup.  The fact that the chicken was marinated made an incredible difference.  The white meat chicken was tender and moist.  The peanut dipping sauce was rich and paired well with the chicken.  While the ingredients of the cucumber salad were standard, I would prefer it to be more tart - the dressing/vinegar was a little too light and almost bland.  Great chicken. $7
Choice of chicken, beef, pork, or tofu are available for most of the dishes.  Add $2 for prawns, $3 for combination or fresh mixed seafood.

- Pad Thai Noodles - The pad thai noodles contain the same ingredients as what you would find at most Thai restaurants, but what I really appreciated was that it wasn't too sweet and the noodles had a terrific texture - slightly al dente, yet still very tender.  he colors also show how nicely it was presented.  I selected beef for this dish and found that the beef was tender and didn't have any hint of being frozen.  The color of the sauce leans more on the brown (versus orange side). Very good. $8.50

- Pumpkin Curry - Kabocha squash, bell pepper, bamboo shoots, and basial in a red curry sauce, served with steamed rice  This pumpkin curry was a little more thin than I prefer, but it had good flavor.  I selected tofu for this dish.  There was a good balance of red peppers, and other vegetables - there were no 'filler' vegetables as I call them (sometimes you find cabbage and other things that don't seem to belong or aren't authentic to curry dishes), but this didn't even have a hint of that issue.  I am curious to know if there would be as much meat as there was tofu if I had selected meat.  I also liked how they had included rice with the dish - at most Thai places, you need to order rice separately.  $8.75

Service was friendly and I saw that a lot of patrons knew the restaurant owners.  However, some of the people assisting with serving tonight weren't familiar with the menu or even what table numbers corresponded with which location.  Also, as the restaurant began to fill up and we were finishing our meal, it took a long time for someone to come back to clear the table and bring the check.

Pongo's has a lot of potential, but they have a few kinks to work out.  They need a more prominent sign outside because the temporary one isn't very eye-catching.  All of the staff need to be familiar with the menu, otherwise, they need to stay behind the counter or assist in some other manner.  They need to build a stronger web presence to attract new clients.  Fortunately, the food is delicious - good enough that I would go back and try more of their menu, but until these other things get worked out, it will be harder to pull in new people and get them to keep coming back.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, it's unpolished... my experience was our gal server was unfamiliar with ingredients of a menu item. -James :O)