Yes, it took me awhile.
But I finally made it to The Pig and the Lady‘s brick-and-mortar restaurant in Chinatown last week.
And it was even better than I had anticipated.
This is outside the new location on North King Street, in the space once occupied by Lemongrass Cafe, the restaurant for the Pacific Gateway Center, a nonprofit group that provides assistance to immigrants, refugees and low-income residents. Though The Pig and the Lady has taken over the space, they’re still partnering with the Pacific Gateway Center and employing participants in their work training program.
The restaurant opened in November, luring its legion of loyal fans from the local farmers’ markets and pop-up shops for its popular banh mi and Vietnamese noodle soups.
I’m thrilled owners Andrew Le and his mom, Loan Le, now have a permanent kitchen — and I don’t have to fight the Saturday crowds at Kapiolani Community College anymore for their farmer’s pho. (Insert Happy Dance here.)
The new restaurant, though, doesn’t just serve its farmers’ market staples. The menu — the Pig serves brunch, lunch and dinner — boasts new dishes and weekly specials. To me, that’s exciting.
So here’s what we ate on a recent visit to the Chinatown hot spot:
Lunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday with a menu that comes with snacks like this bacon and ham hock rillette ($5), with kaya rusk, Parmesan cheese, citrus zest and watercress. I loved that the bread was crispy with a hint of cinnamon.
One of my favorite items on the lunch menu was this hoi an chicken salad ($5 for a small portion, $10 for the larger size). Everything about this worked — the poached chicken, cabbage, Vietnamese cilantro, fried shallots, the hint of fish sauce, the toasted quinoa on top. I could eat this everyday.
Here’s the pho ga ($12), a pho with poached chicken, a marinated soft egg, chicken crackling and a chicken fat vinaigrette, oh yeah. All of its pho dishes come with fresh noodles that are hand-cut daily. That hasn’t changed.
This was one of the specials that day: Called “Mana Ai Moco,” this dish came with crispy kalo (taro), burnt brisket ends gravy, fried eggs from Petersons’ Upland Farms, pickled chili and garlic, and green onions. Talk about inventive.
I’m a sucker for tsukemen (dipping noodle) dishes, so when I saw this on the menu, I didn’t hesitate to order it. Now I will say this, it can be a bit confusing if you don’t know how to eat tsukemen, which is most often seen with ramen. So I did this: I dumped the pho broth right into this bowl ($12), which came with that same 12-hour brisket, salt-cured egg yolk, fried shallots, roasted peanuts and garlic chives. Awesome. Might be my favorite pho yet.
And you can’t forget about dessert. The restaurant serves a pie of the day ($5 per slice) — and we had two! One was a Vietnamese coffee cheesecake that had a nice balance of bitter and sweet; the other was a banana cream cheesecake that has actual slices of banana in it. Great day to end an awesome meal.
The Pig and the Lady, 83 N. King St. in Chinatown. Hours: Lunch, 10:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; dinner, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with late night from 10 p.m. to midnight. Phone: (808) 585-8255. Web: thepigandthelady.com