Pig and Khao Launches Brunch: The Hit Dishes

It all started with the chocolate & bacon rice pudding at Pig and Khao: a multi-layered Filipino treat of sticky rice, coconut milk, whole milk, and chocolate, topped with bacon bits. One rice and pork-filled scoop, and I vowed to never let a silly thing like “healthfulness” or “but I’m going out later”  be a concern on the weekends. Why? Because the Thai and Filipino spot Pig and Khao has just launched their weekend brunch, and with a name that translates to “mountains of rice and pig” in Thai, there’s just no time for any thought besides "bring on the bacon."

About Pig and Khao; every forkful at this Lower East Side spot has been crafted by Top Chef contestant Leah Cohen, and everything else – from the décor to the management – is under the care of Fatty Crew Hospitality, the same group behind NY’s Fatty ‘Cue and Fatty Crab. You’re in good hands.

And good hands yield happy bellies at Pig and Khao, where the brunch menu includes hit dishes like a sizzling platter of braised pork head (pictured) with garlic and a just-cracked egg; corned beef hash with raw egg, Thai chili, and cilantro; and the king of the crop – a pan-seared French toast-inspired bread pudding (below) with caramelized bananas baked inside, topped with caramelized plantains and coconut whipped cream.  

And mimosas are bottomless. At $15, you get nonstop, express-delivered glasses of fresh lychee, mango, orange, and watermelon mimosa. And when you couple two hours of those drinks with the sobering effects of pork head and yellow curry noodles, you too can walk out of Pig and Khao a new person, ready to take on the day. Godspeed.

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Pig and Khao

More Thai For Brooklyn

Joining the ranks of Thai, party restaurants like Sea in Brooklyn; Qi Thai Grill opens up its third location today in Williamsburg to bring Thai street food to the neighborhood. "Brooklyn is such a center of innovation, cuisine and style, so we knew we wanted a Qi here,” said owner Ahm Bopit. “There is profound appreciation for artisan and world cuisine in Brooklyn that makes it an ideal place for us to serve some of our favorite dishes, which we eat at food stalls in Thailand.” 

Chef Sripraphai Tipmanee and dessert master Pichet Ong have contributed to this Brooklyn project to serve up kin lehnn (small plates), and pihng yahng (grilled dishes). This includes pork-heavy plates of cilantro-marinated kor mooh yahng (grilled pork jaw), mooh dang mooh grohb (cinnamon pork and crispy pork belly), and kee mao kah mooh (spicy pork trotter) with chili jam.  

They also offer an array of signature cocktails like the blend of gin, vodka, star anise, ginger, yuzu, Thai iced tea, lime and guava juice, and is titled after Bangkok’s official name, which is also the world’s longest city name: Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat

Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.

You can just ask for the Bangkok. Or, with even less syllables, the Chi’, which has gin, Midori, and cucumber puree.

No meal with Ong behind the wheel would be complete without a sweet. Here they serve his pumpkin crème brulee with coconut Chantilly cream, and a banana-date upside down cake with beer ice cream. This, and everything else, can be had under a four-foot Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, which is perched on a waterfall in the center of Qi’s two-tiered, two-hundred-seat dining room. Which, incidentally, is not like a Thai street cart at all. 

Thai to Wait For: Pok Pok Ny Continues to Wow

If you were biding your time to try Andy Ricker’s famous Pok Pok Ny until the hype, and the lines, died down, you bet wrong. With today’s two-star review by New York Times writer Pete Wells, Pok Pok is still all anyone can talk talk about. Who ever thought Thai food would be all the rage?

While the ubiquitous fusion food trend tends to strike Asian cuisine the hardest, Ricker’s straightforward menu doesn’t cross any boundaries. His solid Thai cuisine first gained a following in Portland, where he opened the original Pok Pok in 2005. There, he went on to open Pok Pok Noi, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and soon he will add another restaurant to the line up. That’s not all, in 2011 he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast, and this year he debuted Pok Pok Wing in the Lower East Side before opening Pok Pok Ny in Brooklyn. The people have been queuing up since.  

Of course, despite the hype, Pok Pok Ny isn’t perfect. Wells writes in his review:

There are other ways in which Pok Pok Ny hasn’t synchronized its watches yet. An order went missing for ages, then showed up in duplicate. And one night I ran into two or three dishes whose flavors seemed to be napping, including a fried egg salad and even a papaya salad. I left downcast, humming Peggy Lee: Is that all there is?

No, it’s not. In my next visits I was thrilled to taste more remarkable dishes than the table could hold: prawns in smoky noodles simmered with soy and ginger in a clay pot; an eggy pancake of juicy, sweet mussels with garlic chives; a stunningly complex pork laap. Compared with other pork laaps I’ve had, this one seemed to have eight or nine extra dimensions. The memory of it will be enough to keep me docile next time I wait for a table.

In the meantime, if you want to good, authentic Thai food without the wait, try Zaab Elee, which not only is authentic and delicious, but inexpensive. For a modern twist on Thai, chef Hong Thaimee does some amazing things with papaya and lobster at her East Village restaurant Ngam. And, if you really want to go the extra mile (literally), go to Queens and eat at chef Duangjai Thammasat’s Ayada in Elmhurst or Sripraphai in Woodside.

What of the Now Todd English-less Ember Room?

When the Ember Room opened up in February 2011 in Hell’s Kitchen, it did so with fanfare, parties, and with chefs Todd English and Ian Kittichai backing the project. Not long after it opened, Ember Room fell into that same problem a lot of celebrity-owned restaurants do: the food, service, and vibe all rode on names and in the end, didn’t deliver. Basically, it sucked. Now Todd English has stepped down from the Ember Room, a move he did quietly a few weeks ago, and has let Kittichai take over the kitchen. So what will become of the Ember Room? Will it continue to smolder or will it gradually cool to stillness?

Perhaps English’s move is smart, he has after all been running restaurants since the 1980s when he opened Olives in Massachusetts. Since then he has quickly moved up in the restaurateur world, starting businesses, staring on his own TV show, and writing numerous cookbooks. Maybe he just heard Ember Room’s death rattle, after all, it’s not unusual for celebrity helmed eateries to fail when the restaurant doesn’t step up to the plate. For example look at Britney Spears’s short-lived NYLA in New York or J-Lo’s Madres in California. Some restaurants, like the Heath Ledger’s Five Leaves, remain strong even when the celebrity presence is gone, and that’s usually due to its solid food and service.

Kittichai, in his thick Thai accent agrees and says, “I want to make this restaurant more impressive, more fun about eating, more fun about experiencing. Like, trying the Ladyboy [cocktail].”Aside from the whimsical drink list and recognizable Asian-flare themed dishes like lobster pad Thai, whole striped bass, and juicy volcano chicken, Kittichai has worked to recreate the menu into something people, not just tourists wanting to eat at a famous chef’s restaurant, will make an effort to go out and try.

Under Kittichai’s command, the food offerings appear to have perked up, though it still remains safe for diners not really wanting something too different or spicy. The chef also tapped into today’s current trend of comfort-fusion food by adding dishes like green curry lasagna, Thai chili mac n’cheese, and Thai tacos with shredded chicken, coconut, and a sweet chili sauce.

In the end, perhaps English’s exit was a good thing. He might have brought the crowds but it is Kittichai’s name carries weight in food-conscious circles. So we hope: English is gone but the Ember burns on.