Jun 14, 2016
All in the Fami-Le: Piggy Smalls Comes to Ward
Photos by The Pig & The Lady
It's just a few minutes past noon at The Pig and the Lady's Chinatown restaurant and the lunch rush is in full swing. Snaking out the door and onto the sidewalk, a line of hungry patrons are hankering for the unique twist of Vietnamese cuisine The Pig and the Lady has come to be known for. Inside, customers are nestled next to one another among both private and communal tables. A century-old brick wall stands behind them and the space bubbles over with energy. Servers, with their pens, papers, and plates of mouth-watering pho and savory French Dip sandwiches, meander from table to table, describing the day's specials. From all accounts, The Pig and the Lady is a hit in Honolulu, so much so that after only a few years in their brick-and-mortar location, they were recently dubbed "best restaurant in the city" in the prestigious Hale Aina awards and the restaurant's head chef, Andrew Le, has become a bit of a celebrity in the local culinary scene. On the heels of their success, the restaurant recently announced that they'll be opening up a second location, Piggy Smalls, right here in Ward Village. So just how did the restaurateurs behind The Pig and the Lady create such a stunningly successful venture? It turns out, it takes a lot of love, imagination, know-how, and help from your family.
Flashback to the spring of 1975. After nearly two decades of grueling combat, the war in Vietnam is finally coming to a close. The North Vietnamese Army has recaptured the southern capital of Saigon and all hell is breaking loose on the streets. The South Vietnamese who worked with the Americans—fearing retribution from the communists—are clamoring to leave the country. In the mix, Raymond Le, who served as a translator, and his pregnant wife, Loan, had secured two seats in a plane bound for the United States.
However, their life would soon take yet another dramatic turn. En route to the Mainland, while on the ground in Honolulu, Loan went into labor and was rushed to Tripler Army Hospital where she gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Anderson. While their final destination was supposed to be Arkansas, the Le family took an immediate liking to Hawaii and opted to stay in the Islands, putting down firm roots and raising three boys (Alex, Andrew, and Anderson) and a girl (Allison).
Although the family quickly assimilated into the US and embraced American culture, they never turned their back on their roots, and that meant upholding the cuisine of Vietnam. As chief protector of the family's connection to their culinary heritage, Loan—known more affectionately as "Mama Le"—created a mix of delectably authentic Vietnamese dishes every night. It was these family meals that would serve as the genesis for The Pig and the Lady.
Even as a child, Andrew Le was passionate about his mom's cooking. It was this passion that saw his own love affair with cooking blossom. After high school, Andrew would attend the Culinary Institute of America and would eventually earn himself a high-level position in the chic Chef Mavro restaurant. However, in spite of his success, Andrew yearned for the comfort food that his mother prepared each night and wanted to make his own stand in Honolulu's food scene. He would open his own restaurant and mix the modern flavors and techniques that he'd learned with his mother's old-world recipes. And with that, The Pig and the Lady was born.
My family definitely has an interesting story to tell. For our family, food has always been a big part of who we are. It's helped to define our identity. My mom is an amazing cook, and she's one of the primary reasons that I was so attracted to food and why I became a chef. From the French influences to the old world cuisine of the countryside, there's just so much diversity in Vietnamese food. So we've taken my mom's expertise, blended it with mine, and the results have been really amazing.
Some might call it crazy, leaving a solid job at one of the city's most respected restaurants and all, but Andrew decision to leave stability by the wayside and take a chance at his own restaurant has helped to strengthen Honolulu's standing among foodies worldwide, earning praise from the likes of CNN's Anthony Bourdain and the New York Times, just to name a few.
The success and announcement that they'll be opening up a new establishment at Ward Village was met with thunderous approval of the entire city. According to Alex Le, who works as the GM, their second restaurant, Piggy Smalls, will continue to dish out their crowd favorites as well as a wealth of new creations.
"We're really looking forward to opening up Piggy Smalls at Ward Village and joining the likes of other restaurants like Nobu and Merriman's. Not only are we going to have a lot of our staple dishes, but we're going to be adding some new flavors and dishes as well. We'll be serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner and we'll some grab-and-go options, too. It's a really exciting project for us."
We're thrilled to welcome Piggy Smalls and the Le ohana to Ward Village. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner (or all four…don't judge) or simply just talking story on the sidewalk, we know we're in for quite the treat.
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