Comparatively speaking, adding any derivative of the word “Pig” to the name of your venture has been a pretty good omen for many restaurateurs in New York. Not sure whether it’s fun, courage or luck that the “other white meat” offers, but it certainly seems to translate into popularity and longevity. There’s April Bloomfield’s furiously acclaimed Spotted Pig, Danny Meyer’s impossible-to-get-into Maialino (piglet in Italian), happy-hour all-time-favorite Swine, Brooklyn’s BBQ indulgence palace Fette Sau (fat pig in German), sandwich palace Porchetta (deboned pork roast in Italian), lunchtime office crowd favorite chain Potbelly, or Traif (anything on the “verboten” list for good Jews – such as pork or shellfish in Yiddish) and so it’s scarcely surprising that newcomer and Top Chef alum Leah Cohen is already thinking of opening a gastropub knock-off of her South-East Asian hipster canteen Pig and Khao.
Whatever happens to be on the grill or in the fryer permeates the simple rice-noodle-thin slither of a room with open kitchen and back patio. The overwhelmingly Thai menu (thankfully omits any of the “Big 5” dishes) includes some Filipino and Vietnamese influences as well.
Cohen’s cocktails are every bit as intense and flavor-forward as her food. From her take on a Negroni with grapefruit and cardamom, to a chamomile-infused Rye with elderflower and a “scotch rinse.”
The Burmese Eggplant Salad is like an Asian, peanut, mint and shrimp version of a Babaganoush dip – made even more unstoppably edible thanks to the homemade slightly sugary shrimp chips.
The Green Mango Salad sitting under a dome of char-grilled chicken and dried shrimp and cashews for crunch, bathing in that unmistakably flavorful and salivation provoking fish-sauce/lemon grass/chili dressing, feels a bit like the big brother of the Green Papaya Noodle Salad with grilled shrimp in a tamarind chili dressing. Both noodle dishes are crowd favorites. The Shan Noodles with ground chicken and turmeric, and the heavenly Khao Soi .
A velvety smooth, Thai-iced-tea colored coconut curry with chicken, shallots and mustard greens topped with a centerpiece of egg noodles – the bottom half of which are softly submerged in the curry, leaving the top half exposed and crispy.
For our pork dish we tried the meat-falling-off-the-bones BBQ Baby Back Ribs. While the exact ingredients of Cohen’s barbecue sauce remains a secret, suffice it to say I would happily lap up the gingery-garlicky-syrupy deliciousness even if it were poured over MTA subway tickets or second-hand tennis shoes.
For dessert we tried the Turon, which is a banana smartly dressed up in a rice pastry jacket, before being flash fried and perfectly paired next to salted caramel ice-cream and chocolate syrup.
It’s fairly safe to say that Clinton Street has yet another runaway hit on it’s sidewalks.