Monday, February 9, 2015

The Pig and the Lady finds a home

Besides Sacramento, I know Honolulu's food scene the next best. Certainly not on my own, but because I have made friends with the two top restaurant food bloggers on Oahu. Mari (@nonstopMari) and Melissa (@Melissa808) work for FrolicHawaii.com and they are the two most in tune with Honolulu's food scene. I first met them 2.5 years ago on my last trip and they were the ones to steer me to The Pig & the Lady. At the time it was a pop-up restaurant, which I wrote about when I wrote about the chef, Andrew Le. Andrew brings his family upbringing to the menu with updated Vietnamese food. 

Almost a year and a half ago The Pig & the Lady opened up in a brick and mortar in Chinatown. It has become one of the most popular restaurants among the locals and is drawing visitors because it has been mentioned in such publications as Travel & Leisure and Saveur magazines. Even better, Andrew Le was a James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef in 2014 and Best Chef West for 2015. Quite an achievement for this young chef. 



at the farmers market
On this trip I had to go visit the restaurant and see what Andrew was up to. He is definitely keeping busy. Not only does P&tL operate for lunches and dinner six days a week, but they also go to several farmers markets on the island and set up quite an elaborate food tent. In fact, I was quite blown away with the number of menu items they do out of a tent! Most food vendors will have about 6-10, P&tL is easily at two dozen. Whether you choose one of several pho or a version of their banh mi sandwiches, the options are so numerous it actually makes it difficult to decide. Rest assured, though, the quality of the meals from the tent are just as high and delicious as from the restaurant. 

The day after I saw the team at the Blaisdell farmers market I was having dinner with Mari at the restaurant. The pop-up had been a prix fixe affair, but now it was a standard menu of appetizers and entrees to choose from. We each selected our items before getting caught up with what we had each been up to since we last saw each other.

chips/dip

The restaurant is well organized. There is a lot of seating and even some long tables in the center that can be used for large parties or communal dining. The bar is at the back right and there is another bar, the dessert bar, up to the front with a display case by the door for those that want to just grab some cookies on the go. Above there are light fixtures in chicken wire cages hanging from the high ceilings.  Since there are brick walls and hard surfaces, it does get noisy. Mari said it was one of the loudest restaurants in Honolulu. I was not complaining as it seemed on the quieter side compared to California restaurants. 



sashimi
Mari ordered the chips and dip to start. They consisted of potato skins served with potato skins, horseradish-creme fraiche, ikura. I had ordered the pork cheeks that were served with lettuce leaves so that you ate it as a sort of lettuce wrap. Andrew was kind enough to send out a sashimi plate as well. 


pork entree
Pork is my favorite meat and so I double dipped with a pork entree as well. After all, it was pork belly. His Shinsato Farm Pork ala Basquaise had chorizo piperrada, olive oil potatoes, leeks braised in espelette & apple cider, hazelnuts, tomato seed vinaigrette, mustard greens




Andrew has brought in a pastry chef for the dessert bar. Mari says Rachel Murai is among the top three pastry chefs in Honolulu.  She had previously been at Nobu where Mari tells me she actually helped to build the dream kitchen for that restaurant. She's apparently very happy to be a part of Andrew's team, always with a big smile. She's also generous. I had ordered the marvelous avocado cake because I had watched it being prepared.  The avocado cake was covered with a layer of sugar that was then bruleed with a torch to create a candy crunch surface. It was then served with local bee pollen, strawberries, pea shoots, and a light corn gelato.
 Fantastic


Rachel brought us an extra treat as well. They had gotten a soft serve machine and on this day it had a combo of a vanilla custard ice cream in one side and a lychee sorbet on the other. She brought it to us as a swirl witha sprinkling of blueberries and boba around it. In her had was a large capped test tube, which she poured over the soft serve. It was an elderflower soda. The mini float was such a refreshing end to a fantastic meal. 

Two days later I returned for the lunch menu. I opted for their lunch tasting, which for $24 included a small salad, a small bowl of pho with plenty of noodles, and a small banh mi sandwich.  I selected the pork belly banh mi (shock!) and, while I of course loved it, wished that it had been larger! (The next day I dreamed of ordering one to-go for the plane, but alas, they were closed on Sundays.) It was the small bowl of pho that was the real delight. Bursting with full flavor. I can only dream of making a broth so rich with flavor.



Andrew Le is far left
It's always great when you get to see someone succeed at their dream. Andrew's success is not only because of his great skill in the kitchen, but because he has the love and support of his family. His siblings work in the restaurant and even his mom is there helping out on occasion. 

I can't wait for my next trip back when I can see what else Andrew comes up. He's a local favorite, but if you are visiting Honolulu, get away from Waikiki and visit him in Chinatown.

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