Pig & Khao is Top Chef’s Leah Cohen’s Lower East Side Southeast Asian spot. It feels local, nonchalant, unfussy and a place to go when you want to grub on some Thai style dishes. I’m on a Southeast Asian kick right now after unbelievable meals at Uncle Boons and Sway in Austin. I love the easy going scene of Pig & Khao. It has a great neighborhood feel and is the type of restaurant that you can comfortably pop in on any given night regardless of the occasion, what you are wearing or who you are with. These are the best kinds of restaurants because they are crave-able and create regular customers. All of the dishes including those labeled small plates are perfect for sharing, pretty generous portions and all $16 and under. The Scallops in Green Curry is outstanding with a gigantic amount of corn that pairs well with the heaping side of Coconut Rice. The bowl of crunchy corn mixed with the plump scallops and green curry seemed endless and like we were never going to get to the bottom even after several helpings. This one is definitely a winner. The Pork Belly Adobo was a bit smaller with very tender pieces of meat bathing in a sweet soy sauce. It’s a crowd pleaser if you are looking for a meat option. The very popular Khao Soi (2nd pic) red curry, coconut milk noodle dish actually was my least favorite dish. I did like the pieces of chicken involved, and it had a spicy kick at the end, but I didn’t see it as a stand out like most people. I think it’s because I’m too obsessed with Uncle Boon’s Golden Curry dish that will be impossible for me to ever forget.
The Whole Fried Fish came at the end of the meal (when we were pretty full) but it dominates the table and makes for even better leftovers. It’s served in a giant bowl of hot and sour broth creating a soup style dish and giving it a healthy flare with a bunch of veggies. The fish is crispy on the outside (watch out for bones) and the combination of the soup to fish to vegetable ratio is just comforting and feels right. I’m not one to usually have leftovers, but since this came out so much later than our first few plates we had kind of moved on, so I took the rest of the whole fish to go naturally. I’m probably the only person who brings a bone in whole fish to the office for lunch, but let me tell you, this dish heated up the next day allowed all the flavors to marinate together after sitting overnight and tasted even better the second time around. It tastes light, good for the soul and not too spicy. One thing I admired was watching chef Leah Cohen running the kitchen AND the dining room. It was cool to see her hard at work at the front of the kitchen watching ever plate go out and even serving some of the dishes herself when a runner wasn’t available. Now that’s dedication.
If I had to go back to Pig & Khao, I definitely wouldn’t be upset about it. There are a bunch of other dishes I’d like to try such as the Green Mango Salad with Chicken, Cashew and Shrimp. They also serve a tasting menu Monday-Thursday that is 5 courses, up to the chef’s discretion and only $39. In addition, you might want to partake in the self serve bottomless draft PBR for $15. The outdoor back garden in the back that probably makes for a great brunch or birthday party situation. Pig & Khao pretty much guarantees a hang loose kind of night.