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« Pete Wells: Is he a total a-hole or was he just being (brutally) honest? | Main | T.G.I.November! »
Friday
Nov092012

Breaking (mantau) bread with a Top Chef: Dinner at Pig & Khao

  • Restaurant  Pig & Khao
  • Cuisine  Asian fusion, Filipino
  • Location  68 Clinton St. (between Stanton & Rivington Streets), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-920-4485
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  intimate, dim, hip, casual-chic
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  1x1, foodies, outdoor dining, dine at the kitchen counter, celebrity chef, great music
  • Price  moderate
  • FYI  Currently, beer and wine only - in process of securing liquor license
  • Pig & Khao on Urbanspoon

Having especially enjoyed her season of Top Chef, I've casually kept track of Leah Cohen's kitchen whereabouts, if you will, ever since.  And, despite having never made it over to Centro Vinoteca when reigned as Executive Chef, I was elated to hear that she had quietly left - went on a year-long culinary sabbatical throughout Asia - and returned to NYC to open a place of her own (...with the Fatty Crew team).    

Not realizing that our date was scheduled for the eve of the presidential election, I reached out to Dana to see if she was still interested in meeting for dinner.  After she confirmed that we were, in fact, still on, we agreed to meet at Miss Cohen's brand new Asian fusion, Pig & Khao, at 7:30pm.

Having arrived at the restaurant about 15-minutes prior to Dana, I was greeted by a bevy of friendly staff.  "Would you like something to drink while you wait?"  Ah, the handsome host must have read my mind.  Or my face.  "Why yes," I replied.  "Yes, I would.  Do you all have tequila?"  Unfortunately, I was informed that P+K (Pig & Khao) did not yet have a liquor license.  But I didn't let that stop me from getting my lush on... 

Shockingly, the cocktail menu was quite creative.  In fact, everything sounded incredibly exotic and delicious.  Why, I never realized how much could actually be concocted without hard liquor!  Think traditional red sangria - only, instead of mealy apple chunks and yawn-worthy orange segments, P+K's version came chock-full of pineapple, green mango, papaya, and assam skin (dried tamarind-fruit skin).  While contemplating my second beverage, I found myself dancing.  In place.  At the "wait for your party over there" banquette.  And I couldn't help but ask one of the employees, "Is this Rick Ross?"  As if he was supposed to know!  Throughout the entire night, the overhead tunes at P+K were an awesome mix of hip-hop and rap.      

When Dana arrived, we were offered the choice of sitting at a) a traditional table, or b) at the elevated counter overlooking the chef's work station/kitchen.  Clearly, we chose the latter.

Photo found on NY Magazine (Melissa Hom)Having read about how insanely packed the restaurant had been on a nightly basis since opening, Dana and I were really surprised by the lack of customers.  Then, the light bulb flashed:  Alas, it was election night and P+K did not have a television.  Oh, and Mother Nature was in labor with a nor'easter - meaning that not too many people were venturing out of their apartments.  "I'm going to remember this lil' secret for the next election," Dana chuckled.  She was right!  If you want free reign of any restaurant in Manhattan, hit it up on election night!

Kick ass kitchen view, no?  Dana and I were thrilled with our front-and-center seats, though I'm not sure how much Chef and his team appreciated my giddy picture-taking (I recently purchased a new camera)...

Top photo:  My place setting, plus cocktail # 2:  The "Phuket Punch" was a delightful blend of prosecco, grapefruit-cinnamon syrup, and mint.  Without a doubt, this was one of my favorite cocktails on the menu!

Meanwhile, Dana enjoyed an exotic "PX Puko" (pictured above) - PX sherry, fresh young coconut water, and whiskey barrel bitters - that arrived in an actual coconut! 

Instead of ordering our own dishes, Dana and I decided to share multiple plates.  After all, there were just too many items that we wanted to sample!

Spiced Chickpeas

This was the only course where Dana and I chose separate items.  While she snacked on Salmon Skin Chips (gag me), I enjoyed these lil' morsels, instead:  Freshly-fried, warm chickpeas were tossed with a fragrant seasoning dust, resulting in a perfectly-even distribution of spice and flavor. 

Within a matter of minutes, I finished these crunchy and addictive delights in their entirety.

Mussels

A mound of meaty mussels were swimming in a luscious broth that was dotted with dice-sized cubes of garlic-y Chinese sausage, yuzu (a grapefruit-like fruit), and fragrant Thai basil.  Three fried mantau buns - similar in taste and texture to a donut - completed the dish, in addition to making for quite the perfect dipping/dunking accessories! 

Khao Soi

Chef adds the final component to the Khao Soi:  Crunchy noodles.

Hidden beneath a treasure trove of crunchy, fried noodles was a fragrant red curry and coconut milk-broth, chock-full of egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, sliced chicken breast, and shallots.

Crispy Red Curry Rice Salad

Note:  Although we ordered this dish, it was never received.  And, by the time we realized this, Dana and I were too full.

Whole Fried Fish

Served atop a hot and sour soup broth - infused with lemongrass and kaffir lime, and chock-full of tomato, oyster mushrooms, cilantro, and Thai basil - stood a decoratively arched, salt-crusted and fried branzino (European sea bass).  A bowl of coconut rice accompanied (for an additional price).

The salt crust (that enveloped the fish) added the perfect amount of savory flavor to each bite of the delicate and flaky white flesh.  I literally had to stop myself from eating every last bite of the sweet and sticky coconut rice, which I used to thicken and add extra texture to the delicious hot and sour soup broth.  

All in all, this dish was outstanding and certainly one that I would highly recommend. 

Halo-Halo

I have long wanted to try this famous Filipino dessert, and for good reason.  Imagine, if you will, a bowl filled with sweetened condensed milk-drowned shaved ice, macapuno (a fleshier coconut), dice-sized flan cubes, pinipig (crunchy rice flakes), and a scoop of purple yam ice cream.  Now, for the fun part:  Mix all of the components together and enjoy like a bowl of soup! 

The Halo-Halo dessert proved to be a winner in both texture and flavor.

Turon

A fried, wonton-wrapped banana was cut in to four diagonal segments and served atop rich chocolate sauce.  A scoop of homemade, salted caramel ice cream completed the dish.

The ice cream, which I found to be the star of the plate, added the missing sweet and salty elements to the otherwise neutrally-flavored "banana spring roll" and chocolate. 

Vietnamese Style Coffee

Note:  Although we each ordered a cup of the coffee, it was never received.

 

To conclude...

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was when Leah arrived - threw on her apron - greeted her staff with smiles and inside jokes - welcomed and shook our hands - all before announcing that she was "heading downstairs to make homemade sausage!"  So.  Frickin.  Cool. 

For such a newly-opened restaurant, P+K seems to have their menu, service, and vibe down pat.  With the exception of two missing items (the Crispy Red Curry Rice Salad and the Vietnamese Style Coffee), I thought that every aspect of our experience - meal, drinks, music, and service - was fantastic.

Bravo, Leah!  Please pack your knives...and stay!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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