Piglet & Co. is billed as a Taiwanese-night-market-street-food kind of place, although Chef Chris Yang makes no claims to authenticity; his food seems to be just what he likes to eat, and thank goodness for that.
Yang and partner Marcelle Gonzales Yang opened Piglet & Co. to much anticipation, though you’d not know it passing by the restaurant; you might actually just pass by it, there being only pig head posters plastered on the windows and door to let you know you’ve arrived. Indeed, the restaurant looks abandoned, like a godforsaken storefront someone decided to make delicious food in.
On entering, you’ll find a long bar in a shadowy, cavernous room, brick walls and warehouse-grey floors, dimly lit by bulbs shrouded in red Chinese paper lanterns, and two giant movie screens playing Jackie Chan films (and the like) in the background. The screens are bookended by an evil-looking colorful pig and an elegant crane in the reeds.
Yang’s familial roots are Chinese/Taiwanese, and his pop-up, El Chino Grande (a playful nickname) in Bayview Hunters Point, had many avid followers. Here, Yang is slinging nostalgic comfort food at its most inventive. This little piglet lives up to the hype.
First, let’s say we over-ordered. It’s easy to do, with such enticements. We started with the kampachi crudo.
Beautifully silken slices of fish came with charred avocado in a sesame dashi ponzu, fresh and smoky, with tart mandarin segments and some other things that I didn’t quite catch because our server spoke so very quickly. Nonetheless, this is a dish to get every time you visit.
We segued into the honey/walnut shrimp and pork toast:
I’d never had anything remotely like this. A tender patty of seasoned pork and shrimp paste, fried until crispy, rests on pillowy, toasted Japanese milk bread, drizzled with burnt honey aioli and a candied walnut relish. The crunchy and smooth textures and complementary sweet/salty flavors were something of a revelation, even while fitting squarely in the homey, comfort food zone. This is a snack you’d make yourself at home, if only you could.
Next, rice porridge (congee):
Creamy rice grains topped with a smoked egg yolk, shimeji namul (a kind of mushroom Korean salad), a spicy mala chili sauce, and aromatic scallion relish, this was another delicious serving of downright cozy. My only quibble was I discerned no trace of smoke on the velvety egg, but so what? There was already a lot going on here (but not too much.) Decadence in a bowl.
Next, wanting to earn our Piglet credentials, we ordered two kinds of pork. First, the BBQ pork ribs with a miso glaze:
Dotted with koji mayonnaise, red onion relish, and little balls of Japanese rice crackers (bubu arare). Ridiculously tender and rich, porky meat with a lovely char, your teeth need only graze the blackened top to melt right through to the bone. The glaze was a tad sweet and spicy, with a passing whiff of mala (numbing and spicy sensation found in many Sichuan dishes). Another fuck-yeah, must-have-again dish.
For our second porcine plate, the chashao pork ssam:
Another winner, with confit pork belly all a-quiver, and snappy white kimchi (daikon), with lettuce and fresh, herbal greens. Smokey and meaty, these made great little wraps.
Our server talked us into getting rice we really didn’t need:
I loved the copious amount of nori furikake. Also recommended was a side of the mala chili sauce, made with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, Sichuan peppercorns, sesame oil, and black beans; seriously addictive, and we slathered it on everything.
Our last dish, charred savoy cabbage, arrived at the table a little late.
But so worth the wait. A blackened, murderous heap of beautifully sweet cabbage with a drizzle of chimichurri vinaigrette served over a puddle of kalo (taro) leaf puree. The kicker? The cabbage is confit-ed in the fat spillover from the pork ribs, an amazingly rich and surprising treatment for this common cruciferous veg, and one I’d get again on a less full stomach.
At the time we went, Piglet & Co. had no liquor (nor beer/wine) license, so they offer very low ABV beer and a couple of CBD drinks. I opted for the “gin” and tonic — two sips were all I needed; absolutely not for me. They’re hoping to get their license soon, as am I, but it didn’t seem to matter one whit to the mostly Asian young-folk that inhabited the bar area.
Even though it seemed that we’d eaten the whole menu, there’s still more to explore: The steamed whole fish, fried chicken wings, and doubanjiang-glazed cauliflower, to name a few. And I’ve already got a list of favorites to return to.
And don’t be fooled by the words “comfort food;” Chef Yang brings oodles of technique and skill to each morsel he serves up. So, have a glass of wine or a cocktail somewhere else, and then head over to Piglet & Co. for one of the most inventive dinners your mama never made you, and bring your appetite.
Piglet & Co. (website)
2170 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110