Know what makes us super sad? Imagining all those poor schmucks on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, never venturing beyond their mediocre all-you-can-eat hotel buffets and the cheesy celebrity restaurants of Kalakaua Avenue. That’s because the tastiest food on Oahu isn’t found in the most touristed area, natch; it’s served at North Shore food trucks (shout-out to Giovanni’s, Sunrise Shack, and Kalbi on Fire) and in the restaurants of downtown Chinatown. Specifically, we’re thinking of The Pig & the Lady, helmed by owner and executive chef Andrew Le.
Many of Le’s creations take their cues from Asia: grilled heo la lot, a Vietnamese street snack made with pork and betel leaves; Balinese-style porchetta; twice-fried Lao chicken wings in sticky-sweet “money sauce”; and khao soi, arguably the most beloved dish in northern Thailand. Because this is still Honolulu, you can also get prawn stew with okra or grilled Kauai shrimp with papaya.
Where Le and his kitchen crew really shine is their bright, creative salads (a persimmon-and-chicory combo, say, or green papaya in a fermented tea-leaf vinaigrette) and their ridiculous bánh mì French Dip. Picture 12-hour brisket piled on a baguette with hoisin sauce, Sriracha, and Thai basil chimichurri, and dipped in pho broth. It’s the best damn sandwich you’ll eat all year.
Even the desserts are crazy creative. A cream pie made with calamansi curd is topped with a charred meringue, Angostura bitters, and candied macadamia nuts. A traditional French eclair is filled with pandan cream, showered in black sesame crunchies, and served with a scoop of fast-melting sweet corn gelato. The perfect end to an exceptional and surprisingly affordable meal.
83 N. King St., Honolulu, HI; 808-585-8255.