Eatery - The Pig and The Lady (HI)
83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817 (Neighborhood: Chinatown)
Pricing - $$ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - New American, Asian
I feel so behind on all of these posts of amazing places that we devoured on our Hawaii trip. Part of it is because we got swept up in other, more time-reliant articles but part of it was that we just indulged quite a bit without thinking to write it up. This piece comes months and months late so the menu items are likely no longer available due to the restaurant's commitment to seasonal offerings but the styling and dishes can give you a glimpse into what to expect when you dine at The Pig and The Lady, a restaurant our Hawaiian native friend could not stop raving about ever since we met him. We finally were able to get its food into our mouths and yes, all of the accolades he had were warranted. Thoughtful and creative, the dishes we ravenously consumed were a good indicator of why exactly the restaurant so easily went from just a pop-up dinner at farmers' markets to a brick-and-mortar hip-and-happening always-packed joint.
The good thing is that when we visited, we had several people with us so many of the dishes could be tasted without having to stuff ourselves (though we still did...). Located in Chinatown, the restaurant is unassuming from the outside but once inside, you see all of the exposed brick and local artists' work all over the walls. The environment is casually intimate with dim lighting and plenty of laughter. We had to get a few starters to begin the night's experience so opted for Laotian Fried Chicken ($12 - pickled chili, fried shallots, and roasted peanuts) and Kiawe Grilled Pork Jowl ($16 - cilantro, shallots, chili, toasted rice powder, artisanal fish sauce, and chilled lettuce) to open everything up. These two ended up being my favorites of all of the starters, particularly the fried chicken. The pickled chili really brought a sweet and spicy element to the drumsticks which also had a fine wet crisp to them. The mixture of savory, sweet, and spicy really did it for me. As for the pork jowl, its inclusion of fish sauce in the dish reminded me of a variation on Vietnamese roasted pork but with a bit more forethought. An abundance of shallots and cilantro contributed a freshness to cut through the fish sauce acidity and the richness of the fatty jowl. Impressive start to the meal so far!
The next two appetizers up were their Coffee Can Bread ($8 - pears marinated with jasmine, chicken liver mousse, pickled shallots, and mizuna) and Ho'i'o Ferns Ala Plancha ($11 - lemon vinaigrette, almonds, Parmesan, and grapefruit). I was impressed with how many dishes overall on the menu took advantage of the local produce which really guided me to put my vote in for the ferns dish. The coffee can bread was essentially a large piece of toast generously smeared with smooth mousse and balanced by the shallots and mizuna. The pears were a nice touch though not as easy to distinguish in taste from the savoriness of the mousse. As for the ferns, they were delightful! The "salad" looked more like an artistically haphazard plate of foraged ingredients that had been kissed by a Parmesan snow. Fresh, bright, colorful, and full of life, the ferns were a refreshing change from the previously hearty bites we had.
So, after everything that we had heard about The Pig and The Lady, we decided between ourselves (Duc and myself) that we had to at least give their pho a try. He ordered the P&L Pho ($14 - smoked bacon, 12 hour brisket, soft egg, braised green onion, baguette, and handcut noodles) to pass his verdict, and I went for the intriguing Gnocchi ($19 - octopus bolognese, saffron, crispy potato skins, pomegranate, and fennel fronds). It might be hard to say it but we were not incredibly impressed by the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup as interpreted by the folks there. Perhaps it was just the years of growing up having it in so many variations including at home or even our own hyped-up version in our heads let us down. The noodles ended up being a bit too soft and all of the ingredients distracting; the broth is the most important part of pho to us and this one was fair but not a $14 bowl. However, the restaurant was redeemed when I had, I dare say, the most memorable and best gnocchi I've had in my life. It was not even complemented with traditional Italian ingredients but everything that was curious in the menu listing worked together magnificently. Who would have thought up an octopus bolognese? The saffron granted the dish a beautiful color, peppered with bright bursts of red, juiciness from the pomegranate seeds, and the crispy skins were the perfect textural addition to the soft, pillowy pasta bites. It was a masterfully arranged and cooked dish.
The others in our group indulged themselves in the Chilled Farmers Noodles ($14 - soft boiled egg, shiitake tempura, grilled kimchi, bean sprout namul, tokyo negi, house sambal, cold tomato dashi, and tapioca noodles), Kiawe Grilled Chicken ($23 - marinated with spices and palm sugar, chicken cracklins, fried egg, chicken fat rice, and herb salad), and the 7 Grain Risotto ($23 - white truffle oil, charred cucumber, maitake mushroom, purslane, and mascarpone) which everyone enjoyed immensely. During this time, Duc and I sipped on glasses of Pandan Jasmine Iced Tea ($3) and Coconut Horchata ($4), both drinks that we highly recommend if you want either a refreshing tea or an indulgent creamy treat.
So how do you end such a brilliant night? With some dessert of course! Try their Caramelized Avocado Cake ($9 - local bee pollen, strawberries, pea shoots, and corn gelato) for a surprisingly well-balanced plate that meets all of your sweet, savory, creamy, cold, warm, vegetal, and slightly tart needs. If you'd rather have Housemade Soft Serve of the Day ($5), I hope you get the pandan like we did. For a bit more bang, you could even make out with their Soft Serve Parfait ($7.50 - housemade soft serve of the day, Dutch cocoa cake, and seasonal fruit) which had starfruit and strawberries when we went. There seemed to be a type for every dessert lover.
Did all of our expectations get met? Well enough, I'd say! It makes sense why this restaurant was quick to become a brick-and-mortar after such demand for their pop-up dinners. It is definitely an outlier when it comes to the typical Honolulu restaurants as it showcases more creative, modern-inspired dishes over the status quo. If you're looking for adventure, this might be your spot on the island!
Photography by Duc Duong.