REVIEW: Three Fat Pigs – Ippy’s Pork Paradise
Celebrity chefs have an especially tough job living up to their own hype, and food critics often aren’t much help (present company included, of course).
Our last written words about chef Ippy Aiona (of Food Network fame) didn’t exactly sing his praises, as his own attempt at upscale local fare, “Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ,” failed to impress us much.
Still in his twenties (we assume), Ippy himself is in the very early stages of his career, with more than a few years ahead of him in order to master his craft.
At “Three Fat Pigs,” one can find evidence of a chef still stretching his culinary muscles, with thoughtfully prepared dishes mixing with the occasional misstep at a restaurant that overall, is well worth a visit.
Ippy’s appetizer menu is worth spending some quality time with, as evidenced by his Sauteed Ali’i Mushrooms (Warm Mushroom Salad – $16).
Cooked together with what we assume were sesame oil and soy sauce, the mushrooms arrived in a positively heaping portion. The salt level is fine, but the soy treatment here leads to a near Umami-overload of rich flavors. Some may find it all a bit much, but we thoroughly approve.
We next tried the Roasted Bone Marrow with bruschetta toast, tomatoes and balsamic reduction ($10). The marrow came piping hot and appropriately buttery, but the toasted baguette served along side it was bland and uninspired. More tomatoes could have also helped to offset the marrow’s richness.
An order of Tempura asparagus ($10) came fried in an overly thick batter, with an exterior crust too tough to recommend.
Ippy stretches outside the typical island repetoir with house-made charcuterie (cured meats), featuring an admirable attempt at Serrano Ham. The batch we tried had a bit too much water content, and could have used some more quality time in the aging process, but was otherwise enjoyable, and at $5, we’d order this again in a heartbeat. Kudos to Ippy for bothering to go places most Hawai`i based chefs avoid.
All About the Pork
Ippy maintains a pretty diverse menu here, and as a general rule, his pork dishes don’t disappoint.
Our baby back ribs ($28) were soft and tangy, with plenty of meat to go around. The tempura pickles that arrived with them suffered from the same batter as the asparagus, but the ribs more than compensated. Those hoping to peel meat off the bone with their teeth may be disappointed though, this meat is done meltingly tender, which we quite enjoyed.
Ippy’s double-cut pork chop ($33) is definitely one of the highlights here. Seared to a nice crust on the exterior, the meat within was still pleasantly moist, the chop cooked to the exact doneness we desired… not easy to pull off for such an impressively thick hunk of meat. The onion/apple blue cheese tart was a bold pairing, and worked together to hit all the sweet/savory contrasts we’d hoped for.
Craving a little more starch, we ordered up a batch of Crispy Pancetta House Potatoes ($5). The potatoes were crunchy as desired, while the Pancetta offered a nice salty pairing. These are probably best eaten as an appetizer alongside a few cold beers.
Surprisingly, our favorite entrée on the menu is one that seemingly got placed there out of left field. The coconut curry pot pie ($20) we ordered turned out to be one of the best curry preparations we’d had in a very long time. Perfectly cooked contents and a precise dousing of chilis were topped off by a heavenly light and crisp puff pastry crust. Nicely done.
Plenty of Room
Three Fat Pigs has no shortage of space in which to house hungry diners (all told, the place is about 5,000 square feet).
The interior is warm and inviting, with a split-level design and a lovely exterior seating area overlooking one of Waikoloa’s impressive man-made lakes.
The sole dessert we tried (Ippy’s popular “Smores” cake), was awesome in concept, with marshmallow ice cream topping a graham cracker cake. The execution could use room for improvement though, with not enough chocolate to deliver on the promise of a refined camp-side experience. With just a little tweaking, this could be a real hit.
A well-stocked bar serves up cocktails and beers on tap. Truth be told, this is a great place to order appetizers and drink the evening away.
The next time we’re in the neighborhood, we plan on doing just that.
Three Fat Pigs is located in the King’s Shops at Waikoloa, 250 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738. Phone (808)-339-7145.