The fusing together of different cuisines has always been an interesting, and sometimes scary, concept. It is difficult to do correctly and is rarely successful. Thankfully, there are pioneers in the food world that can successfully marry two cultures.
Striving to present a unique fusion between American and Asian cuisine, PONKO is one such pioneer. Every restaurant needs to start with a good foundation, and PONKO finds its foundation in tenders. Having mastered the art of making chicken tenders, PONKO tenders are perfectly crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
My brother and I had the opportunity to dine at the Decatur location and were blown away by how helpful, and knowledgeable, the staff was in getting our food ordered.
Something else that shocked us is that none of the food came out greasy. Each dish felt light, and we were delighted not to have that sleepy feeling hit us when we stood to leave.
Let’s take a closer look at the world of the chicken tender kings.
The overall vibe of the place feels modern without trying too hard. The lighting is warm, just like the temperature, so snapping pics of your food is easy to do. There is a stage for live music from local artists in the evening, as well as a bar with a unique cocktail menu.
For sports fans, there is also a healthy amount of flat screens. It would not be difficult to enjoy any game while enjoying some delicious tenders.
The music played a good variety of genres and was at a comfortable listening level. Thankfully, we did not have to shout to each other.
The Plate can be customized in a variety of ways, so each one is unique to the eater. Our first choice was the protein of the dish. While traditional proteins are available, PONKO also provides vegan alternatives. We, of course, had to try the tenders. There is then the choice of two out of nine sides. We opted for the PONKO Rice and PONKO Fries. The rice was expertly prepared as it is very easy to mess up sticky rice. Much like the tenders, the fries were cooked to perfection and were beautifully crispy while not being greasy. They had that amazing, almost mashed potato consistency. In place of traditional salt, the fries were sprinkled with seaweed flakes. This is a smart way to make the meal healthier.
There is a choice of three unique sauces to have the protein tossed in: OG, Spicy, and BBQ. We had the opportunity of tasting each of these sauces and were blown away at just how delicious each one was. The OG sauce came highly recommended by all of the staff and did not disappoint as it delivered a high level of flavor. It is difficult to tell you exactly what it was made out of, but it was definitely delicious. The Spicy sauce seemed almost to have a type of lacto-fermentation quality to it, which reminded me of spicy kimchi. The BBQ sauce had all the good aspects of traditional barbecue sauce, but it did not overpower with vinegar.
The Plate is definitely a crowd-pleaser and should be the first thing ordered when eating at PONKO.
As a Mexican, I always have a healthy amount of skepticism when seeing tacos on a menu. Naturally, this means that my taco radar was set to high when I saw tacos on this menu at a price of $10 for three.
These tacos kept the same level of deliciousness as the rest of the menu because the same unique sauces were used in preparing them. The lettuce and slaw that topped each taco added a lightness that made it easy to keep eating. The best part of the tacos had to be the drizzle of jalapeno crema. It was not too spicy, but the warmth from it was definitely hard to miss.
The one thing that did not help the tacos is the fact that they use a whole tender for each, which makes it feel more like a wrap than an actual taco. While it may not be technically correct to call these tacos, they are absolutely something that needs to be eaten!
By now, it should be clear that PONKO excels in making chicken tenders. It would be a shock to find better tenders anywhere else. Considering this, we wanted to try the sandwich meal that consisted of grilled chicken with housemade slaw. Eating the sandwich all together was a good bite of food, but the chicken was a touch dry. The teriyaki sauce that the chicken was tossed in definitely saved it from being too dry.
Overall, the chicken sandwich tasted good. It did not quite meet the standard of the rest of the menu, though. It is worth tasting; however, I would recommend The Plate or the tacos before trying this.
The helpfulness of the staff combined with the intricate flavors present in the food made for a positive experience. With selections that can range from $3.50 to $12.00, eating here won’t empty your wallet while filling your stomach. The overall vibe is welcoming to both new and returning guests. Be sure to check out their locations in Chamblee, Lenox, Marietta, Midtown, Buckhead, and opening soon in Alpharetta.