Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
I must admit my expectations for Pig and Khao were pretty low. This Top Chef-driven restaurant (Leah Cohen was a troublemaker on Season Five) is co-owned by the Fatty Crew restaurant group. These are the brainchildren behind hipster hangouts like Fatty ‘Cue and Fatty Crab. These are some of my least favorite restaurants in the city. And after three disappointing meals of overpriced overhyped hipster Asian food with frustratingly bad service, I’ve vowed to never return to Fatty ‘Cue.
So you can imagine my hesitation in entering the narrow, super-hot new restaurant in the Lower East Side. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment (I’m certainly a glutton), but the hype has been good so far and it’s hard to resist a restaurant with pig in the name.
The food here is mostly Filipino with Thai, Chinese, and hipster influences. At places like this, we tend to order more with our eyes then with our stomachs.
Dish after dish surprised me with distinct flavors and contrasting textures. Mussels with chinese sausage, fried mantou buns (instead of crusty baguette), and an addicting yuzu and dashi broth was one of the most unique (and flavorful) mussels dish I’ve ever had perhaps. Even the green mango salad, which is usually a throwaway at most Thai restaurants, featured bright herbal flavors (thanks to lemongrass and mint), smoky umami (perfectly charred chicken), and a sweet crunch from bits of dried shrimp.
Any one of those dishes could have been Dish of the Week this week, but the Khao Soi was the winner of the dinner. The Thai-inspired noodle dish had a real depth of flavor with all the notes I expect from Asian food – spicy, sweet, sour, smoky, and delicious. Ingredients such as pickled mustard greens, cilantro, shallots, and chicken swim in a delicate broth of red curry and coconut milk. Springy egg noodles soak up lots of flavor while a topping of crunchy fried noodles act as a smart texture foil. All of Cohen’s dishes had a crunch element and were perfectly seasoned.
This is the kind of food I had always expected from the Fatty restaurants. Service wasn’t much better here, but at least our harried waitress was personable and friendly. Perhaps there’s hope for this restaurant crew yet.
|PIG AND KHAO|
|68 Clinton Street (between Rivington and Stanton Street),
Lower East Side