At The Cross Street of Dope and Delicious, You’ll Find NYC's Pig and Khao

At The Cross Street of Dope and Delicious, You’ll Find NYC's Pig and Khao

Courtesy Pig and Khao


Brunch is a NYC institution. Bottomless mimosas, baklava pancakes and chicken-and-waffles sandwiches flood our Instagram feeds every weekend. But on the Lower East Side, former Top Chef contestant (season five) Leah Cohen’s pork-themed restaurant, Pig and Khao, is serving brunch of a different kind. The Filipino-Thai destination is reminiscent of a hipster Brooklynite hang out—the unassuming narrow little storefront room on Clinton Street is fitted with communal tables, a small open kitchen and a variety of evocative tchotchkes (Thai urns, a carved-wood dragon). The brunch here draws an eclectic crowd of young families and food-gramming millennials singing along to Top 40 jams bumping in the background. I particularly enjoyed watching a 10-year-old girl at a nearby table get up and teach her dad how to do the ‘Backpack Kid’ floss dance as her mother filmed the hilarious impromptu dance class for the ‘gram. Oh, social media. 

I came hungry and curious, not having much experience with Filipino food, so I asked plenty of questions. The small staff was pleasant and incredibly patient with me as I deliberated between the Chili Pan Mee with ground pork, ramen noodles, crispy anchovies and a slow poached egg and the Sizzling Sisig a pork head, chili and whole egg dish that comes with jasmine rice. They collectively said, “get both!” I knew I was gonna like it here. The open kitchen sits at the heart of the restaurant with bar seating so you can watch all the action as two cooks pump out dishes relatively quickly. I decided to kick off my meal with some fresh young coconut water served in a actual coconut with a strip of sugarcane stuck inside. My grandmother used to grow sugarcane in her backyard where I'd chew bags of it as a kid. It took all my “adulting” strength not do it here ... in public.

The Chili Pan Mee arrived first and it’s one of the best umami bombs I’ve had in a long time. There was so much complexity in the broth from the ground pork to the creaminess of the poached egg, topped by the salty crunchy texture of the crispy anchovies, I was blown away. My face was so expressive, an older Asian couple seated next to me started laughing and nodding as I slurped my noodles, wiping the broth off my chin. We didn’t speak each other's languages, but the message was clear… this dish was dope.

Kaya Toast at Pig and Khao in NYC

I’ve never had pork I didn’t like, and the Sizzling Sisig did not disappoint. It was delivered literally sizzling with bubbles of pork fat that was still cooking the egg nestled in the middle of the chopped pig head goodness. The spicy, crunchy bits of meat, fat and cartilage were perfectly seasoned and delicious. I scrambled the egg inside my side order of garlic rice and went to town, but I knew I had to leave some room for the “secret” brunch menu item called Kaya Toast. The sweet-savory dish ingredients should not make sense. But they do. A heavily buttered brioche sandwich is filled with sweet kaya jam (made with coconut milk, pandan, sugar and eggs) and accompanied by two poached eggs in a bowl of soy sauce. I broke the egg yolk with my coconut jam sandwich. The creamy, salty-sweet combo had me blurting out expletives for a few seconds until I could get myself together. This dish just knocked out my breakfast reigning champion: French toast … and with soy sauce. I’m Canadian and I didn’t miss my maple syrup … it’s that good. 

Filipino-Thai may not be the first style of cuisine you think of when you’re looking for brunch, but it should be. There are still conventional items on the menu like steak and eggs and French toast with bananas, but honestly, you’re not coming here for that. You're coming to Pig and Khao for its creative homage and exploration of South Asian flavors—and I’m here for it.

 

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