Piggy Smalls, will they satisfy all?

By Alice Potter, Staff writer

When entering a traditional restaurant setting, one expects a closed dining space separating the dining area, from the kitchen to the waiting realm. Unlike the traditional restaurant, Piggy Smalls is constructed with an open concept floor plan.

Upon entering Piggy Smalls, we were welcomed with a mural depicting an assortment of foods; it appears as if the cuisine is erupting from the wall. With no barriers between the kitchen and dining area, Piggy Smalls follows a non-traditional floor plan, leaving the sight of cooks and food being made open to the view of the restaurant goers. A fascinating sight as one is able to observe the emotions and sweat that goes into making the fascinating foods. On this journey I brought two friends along, Jake Minyard and Ryan Nishimoto, both Criminal Justice majors attending Chaminade.

Similar to its non-traditional open floor plan, Piggy Smalls’ dishes have a non-traditional take within their ingredients.

Before we were ushered to our table, the hostess informed us that it would be a 45 minute wait, not surprising due to the fact that it was only its second opening day. Instead of being handed an obnoxious buzzer or having to wait for a shrill roll call, the hostess took my friend’s phone number and we were messaged only 40 minutes later, a very pleasing way to notify people on a waiting list.

After being seated, we were handed the dinner menus. The dishes were divided by, “First things first,” vegetables, fresh pasta, house speciality noodles, “Bahn mi, myself and I,” family style and sides. Due to our hunger and enthusiasm to try the food the names of familiar dishes blurred together, such as pho, baked potatoes, goulash, chicken, etc. Some dishes had unmistakable mysterious names, such as L.F.C., Mama Le’s Pho Bac, Beet Box and Pho-strami.

Paying no mind to the proper names Ryan, Jake and I ordered an appetizer and an entree each. When we expected baked potatoes, out came four baked potato beignets as written on the menu.  The beignets were fluffy in texture yet they distinctly tasted like potatoes sprinkled with cheddar cheese. The sauce which they were sitting on reminded me of hollandaise creme thanks to its thickness and flavorful pop of tang at the end. Ryan gobbled his down in a heartbeat while Jake and I savored each and every flavor.

The entrees that came out included the farmer’s goulash, which seemed like a more popular dish among the other restaurant goers, the Tajarin, a pasta special, and the Hanoi shrimp cold noodles.

Ryan’s goulash had some truly satisfying qualities and others less satisfying. The dish itself was a wide bow,l finely decorate with six fresh dumplings quaintly sitting in a thick stew of red sauce and simmered vegetables. The dumplings themselves were delicate and tender yet large in size. Stuffed with oozing cheese that filled your mouth to the brim, the dumplings were the highlight of the of Ryan’s entree. Unfortunately the sauce was not as gratifying. The vegetable stew seemed a bit mushy and very similar in taste to chili con carne, a massive contrast to their excellent dumplings.

The Tajarin, on the other hand had a very light texture. Jake noticed that the creme sauce was just enough to glaze the well-cooked pasta, the light shreds of pork meat and crispy caramelized onions. Though the greater portion of the dish was well done and tasty, the stumbling point was the cabbage and the grapefruits. The cabbage itself had been grilled, on certain areas too much giving it a strange raw yet wilted taste. And the grapefruit just seemed out of place on the plate, clashing with the savory creamy flavor with a tangy chalky texture.

The Hanoi shrimp cold noodles were very different from the hot dishes. Served cold with pre-cooked glass noodles, pan cooked shrimp, peanuts, an assortment of greens and mam tom bac sauce, the waiters informed me that mixing all the components together makes the dish worthwhile. As did what was told, I was unimpressed with the outcome. The shrimp, noodles, peanuts and mam tom bac sauce were a fine combination between soft and crunchy. Though I believe the greens, which included dill and mint, were meant to give off a fresh taste to the noodles, it brought me only confusion as the flavors did little to enhance the dish.

Once looking through the witty dessert menu, titled “Treat Yo Self,” we ended up ordering the chanh muoi & apple tatin, the milk and honey, and the sweet avocado dofu.

Ryan described the apple tatin as a mix between the tenderness of an apple crumble yet with the look of a dry apple tart, which was a delightful surprise.

Jake’s honey and milk dessert was the most popular dessert item ordered among the restaurant goers. The dessert itself was a surprisingly moist and sweet bundt cake with the distinct honey flavors with a hint of sweet milk.

Unlike the sweet apple and honey pound cake, the sweet avocado dofu was quite the trip. It arrived to the table with roasted strawberries, fresh dill and watercress, cookie crumble and pepper meringue piled up on a serving of avocado dofu. The waiter then took a pitcher of maple soymilk and poured it into the bowl, making a small moat around the hill of dofu ingredients.

Once again I was encouraged to mix the ingredients together in order to have an ultimate tasting experience. After mixing the dessert, the variety of tastes commenced to play a tune in my mouth. The dill and watercress gave a perfect crunch and freshness to the dish, in contrast with the soft strawberries and dofu. The cookie crumble on the other hand added another touch of sweetness. Though all these flavors were pleasing to the palate there is one complaint I have. Where is the avocado? Unlike my initial impression after reading the menu, I expected to find more of a avocado flavor in the dofu, but instead I was greeted with the flavor of key-lime pie with only a hint of avocado. I would suggest having more confidence when preparing these fruits as not many people understand that avocado is a neutral-tasting element as it can be prepared for both savory and sweet dishes. The unfortunate part is that the lack of confidence in preparing one of the most versatile fruits in the world is a tragic state of affairs, that sets many chefs back in the world of gastronomy.

The experience at Piggy Smalls was unique event. The chefs at Piggy Smalls are truly impressive, their courage to experiment with a variety of flavors and ingredients is beyond impressive. Though I myself have not been previously introduced to these tastes, the flavors themselves are likely more appealing to a more exposed palate as their choice in ingredients is adventurous. Their innovative dishes are an encouraging push for other restaurants to make an exotic menu. The ambiance is modern and fast paced but comfort is easy to find at this groovy establishment. The staff, enthusiastic, professional and energetic, brings a pleasurable feeling within the restaurant.