The first Chinese immigrants arrived to Hawaii in 1789, followed in 1852 by a large number who came to work on Oahu’s plantations. On completion of their contracts, many gravitated to downtown Honolulu and opened restaurants, herb shops and clubhouses. Fires in 1886 and 1900 nearly destroyed the neighbourhood, and the area fell into decay.
Today, after an extensive rejuvenation project, Honolulu’s Chinatown is once again a thriving community where historic shrines and temples stand alongside colourful lei stands, herbal-medicine shops, vibrant farmers markets and trendy art galleries and restaurants.
The most buzzed about restaurant in the neighbourhood is The Pig and the Lady. It’s a ways off the Waikiki tourist trail so you really do need to know about it as you won’t find yourself simply happening upon it while strolling along the beach. The restaurant packs out on the regular so be sure to make a reservation in advance as the place fills with enthusiastic locals who consider The Pig and the Lady the city’s best kept secret.
From it’s humble beginnings as a pop-up restaurant, to a farmer’s market stand and now a successful brick-and-mortar eatery, The Pig and the Lady cooks up family style meals featuring a unique take on Vietnamese eats.
Twice-nominated James Beard semifinalist Chef Andrew Le has developed a modern, fresh take on traditional Southeast Asian food, utilizing local products – serving his famous banh mis and phos, along with new favourites. Chef Le’s restaurant has also won numerous awards, including Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants 2014 and Honolulu Magazine’s Hale Aina.
Chef Le’s menu is inspired by the “street food stand” in Southeast Asia and has been designed with the community in mind. The eclectic dinning room features five beautiful communal handcrafted mango wood tables and a bustling bar. Highlights from our fine feast include classic Beef Tartare paired with crispy scallion pancake, Buratta and kimchi puttanesca topped crostini, Korean Kalbi Short Ribs with savoury chicken fat rice, a steaming bowl of pho and the restaurants signature Opah Belly Cha Ca “La Vong” featuring local fish with fresh herbs, rice vermicelli, peanut and lemon balm.
1) Beef Tartare | quail egg, scallion pancake, xo sauce
2) Burrata | kimchi puttanesca, young chickpea shoots
3) Kalbi Short Ribs | chicken fat rice
4) P&L Pho | 12 hour brisket, rare beef, smoked bacon, charred tokyo negi, fried shallots, ginger, chili vinegar
5) Opah Belly Cha Ca “La Vong” | local fish marinated in tumeric + galangal, scallions, dill, rice vermicelli, peanut, mint, shiso, lemon balm, cilantro, mam tom sauce