If we could name a first family of the Outer Banks restaurant scene, it would be the family that owns the Thai Room in Kill Devil Hills. This comes to the forefront because Chef Pok, who has been with the Outer Banks Brewing Station for a number of years, has just opened his own take-out place.
Pok’s Art Asia Fusion Kitchen in the Dune Shops in Kitty Hawk is everything that one would expect of a chef with Pok’s reputation. He learned his way around the kitchen at an early age. Sent to the United States from Thailand at age seven, he started working almost immediately in his aunt and uncle’s restaurant.
His Uncle Jimmy has been the chef and owner since the Thai Room opened its doors almost 30 years ago. For Outer Banks residents and many visitors, it’s a tradition of great food in a relaxing atmosphere, while being cared for by a family that everyone has gotten to know. Oh, and the food is great and reasonable priced too!
If you like hot food, it’s important to mention just how spicy one should order their dish. Medium spicy will make most people sweat, and no one I know has the courage to try hot. A generally good range is between no spice and medium spicy.
Pok moved on from the Thai Room, honed his culinary skills and eventually landed at Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills, where he became the head chef in 2007. While he was building his reputation at the Brewing Station, his younger brother Art arrived in the United States.
Art, who was in his late teens when he arrived, did not have kitchen experience like his brother Pok, but he naturally gravitated to the restaurant industry. For a number of years he was a waiter at Black Pelican-tall, thin, always patient and courteous. Art also spent time working at the Brewing Station.
While on a trip out west, Art happened to stop at a Japanese robata bar in San Diego, and he was so taken with the place that he told Pok he thought it would be a great idea for an Outer Banks restaurant.
The brothers kicked the idea around and realized they knew recipes from all over the Pacific Rim, and if the opportunity presented itself, they could open a restaurant that served food from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Korea and Hawaii.
When Seaside Vegetarian closed its doors for good, Pok knew they had found the ideal location. He called his brother, and according to Art, told him opening the new place would be easy because this location had already been a restaurant.
After much effort, in mid June of 2014, they did open the doors and the lines formed immediately. The brothers have partnered with their mother Aung, so the original Thai Room recipes are still on the menu, and their mother adds years of kitchen experience to the venture. The Pad Thai is especially wonderful!
Right now, Pok’s Art is really focusing on the base menu that offers a trip around the Pacific Rim. However, in an interview with Art when the restaurant opened, he made it clear that Pok plans on experimenting with his classic European chef training and the foods of the Orient. For anyone who is wondering if the name is a bit of a play on words, well yes, it is.