IF you love Filipino and Thai flavors, the Pig & Khao will certainly entertain and satisfy your palates.
The Filipino-Thai inspired Southeast Asian fare of millennial Top Chef contender, Chef Leah Cohen, has been creating quite a sensation in New York City’s Lower Eastside.
Rising Star Chef Leah is half Filipino and half Russian-Romanian Jew. Her mother hails from Romblon. Her best friend Rachel Ossakow, who is the general manager of Daniel Bouloud Bistro, where my daughter Patricia, works, introduced Chef Leah and her restaurant to us.
Rachel related that they were classmates at the University of Arizona.
However, Leah’s love for food proved to be stronger than the academic pursuit and took a culinary course in Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York instead.
Her curiosity for Asian cuisine meant learning the culture in order to understand the techniques and flavors.
So, she spent sometime traveling in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines and Thailand.
Her Filipino heritage andher invaluable knowledge acquired through her travels are beautifully translated into her culinary creations at the Pig & Khao, her first solo undertaking, which is fast becoming the hub for Southeast Asian food in New York City.
It was my last week in New York before flying back to Cebu, so my daughter, Patricia and Rachel Ossakow treated me to dinner at Pig & Khao.
It was a school night but we decided to bring my grandkids Silvian and Sabrina. The hip restaurant was packed to the rafters. The steamy open kitchen at the center was extremely busy with Chef Leah herself on top of the food preparation. For typical New Yorkers, the food offerings may be complex with strong flavors but is apparently appealing to diners.
From the Small Plates, Rachel gave our orders while Silvian andI had Sweet & Sour Cilantro Soda while we waited. The Grilled Pineapple Salad with poached shrimp, pickled cucumber and toasted coconut was very tropical in flavor that started our appetites working. Silvian enjoyed his Grilled Sirloin served with cabbage, crispy garlic and spicy Isaan sauce, from Isaan region in Northern Thailand.
Isaan is a dipping sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, chili flakes, chopped coriander leaves and toasted rice. Sabrina was a bit picky but tried the rest of our choice appetizers: Pork Belly Adobo topped with crispy garlic and perfectly slow poached egg, Chili Pan Mee, an egg noodle dish with spicy pork ragu, crispy anchovies and slow poached egg.
The strong flavors did not appeal to my rascals who picked on the egg noodles. The Malaysian Butter Prawns were crystalline fresh served with Curry leaves, green chilies, soy and butter. The very Pinoy Sizzling Sisig crowned our cravings for appetizers.
From the Large Plates, we shared the Half Hainanese Duck sitting on a bed of rice fried in duck fat, served with ginger and chili sauce. I simply love the brown duck meat and it’s my first time to try it cooked Hainanese style. The Pinoy favorite Crispy Pata was served with pickled green mango with soy-vinegar and liver sauce. We enjoyed the tasty dishes with Coconut and Jasmin Rice, central to Filipino, Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine. The desserts certainly brought me home: Banana Turon served with Salted Caramel Ice Cream with chocolate sauce and the classic Halo-Halo with leche flan, macapuno, pinipig and ube ice cream.