Monday, May 13

lots of pig, maybe some khao?

in a change up from my usual friday night routine, BlackSesame, Kiddo and i decided to go to Pig & Khao for dinner (primarily due to a Google Offer). there's been a lot of buzz about this place, and since i rarely go to buzzworthy spots, it seemed like  a good change of pace.

i arrived late (don't you hate it when someone calls you at work right as you're about to leave?) and put our names on the list. although the line looked reasonable, i quickly found out why: the wait was approximately 2 hours. so of course no one was hanging around outside the restaurant. after all, it's the lower east side. bars aplenty to while away the time while you wait for your reservation. Pig & Khao does take your number down so that they can text you when your table's ready. why can't more restaurants do that?

i joined BS and Kiddo at Verlaine where they had already been camped out for the past 30 mins while waiting for me. still one of the best happy hours in NYC, simply because they allow it run much longer than the usual 2 hour window. and those lychee martinis really are delicious. i always want extra lychee to eat when i'm done with my drink. yum yum.

approximately 1.5 hours later, we got the text from the restaurant and headed over. cute setting, very small neighborhood restaurant with a nice backyard outdoor seating area. low lighting gives it the potential for a reasonable date setting or just cool hipsters talking about fusion foods. 

overall i found the food very good. i liked everything we ordered and was satisfied with the flavors and presentation. that being said, the prices are a little steep for the amount of food you receive. and Kiddo and i, both being asian, find it a little ridiculous the prices vs. portions being served in comparison to the more authentic (albeit less trendy) filipino restaurants in the outer boroughs. 

we started with an order of the Grilled Pork Jowl (watermelon, chicharron, toasted rice, lime-chili fish sauce, herbs)($13). the watermelon was sweet and refreshing which contrasted with the salty-tangy fish sauce. the crispy chicharron also added a great texture to the dish. both Kiddo and BS were disappointed with the portion and the price in terms of the ingredients used.

we also ordered the Quail Adobo (soy sauce, vinegar, szechuan peppercorns, crispy garlic) ($15). this dish i could've done without. the quail was crispy and the flavor was good, but nothing stood out. and, as is the case with quail, the pieces were tiny.
See i wasn't lying about the tiny portion right?

our final small plate was the Sizzling Sisig (pork head, chili, whole egg) ($14). if you read Yelp, everybody talks about this dish as it's a standard/staple of filipino cuisine. this dish does look pretty impressive when it arrives at your table. and it is pretty good. but is it blow me away good? not particularly. the pork is well cooked and there is a distinct flavor and seasoning to it, but, as i write this 2 weeks after-the-fact, i'm having a hard time remembering the exact flavor. however, portion-wise, i think this dish left even BS and Kiddo with little to gripe about. or perhaps it's because they'd become desensitized at this point in the meal.

since we were eating family-style, we also ordered one large plate to share: Whole Fried Fish (hot and sour broth, lemongrass, kaffir, tomato, oyster mushroom, cilantro, thai basil) ($29). this was probably my favorite dish of the night. and while i agree that the price is a little more than what i would pay at a chinese restaurant for a much larger steamed whole fish, the flavors in the broth were so poignant that i forgave Pig & Khao for their smaller portion. i highly recommend ordering this dish if you like the sweet and sour flavor that is often associated with southeast asian foods. 
Photo courtesy of Can I Try?

additionally, you must make sure to order a bowl of their Coconut Rice ($3).  BS, Kiddo and i had been discussing whether their coconut rice was made with coconut milk and after having tasted it, i can say with 85% certainty that it is. and it is delicious. eaten on its own you can really taste the sweetness that coconut milk adds to the rice. when paired with the other dishes, which all tend to lean towards the sour/salty flavor spectrum, it is a perfect complement.

although BS and Kiddo would disagree, i would come back to Pig & Khao. the food was good and the atmosphere was friendly (as opposed to frenetic-which can happen at a lot of hyped-up small trendy restaurants). yes, it's a little pricier than what i would usually pay for similar food. but when it's good, it's good. and to be smack-dab in the center of the LES isn't a bad place to be after a great meal or, in reverse order, after a bunch of drinks and on the hunt for food.

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