It’s incredibly easy to walk right by Piglet & Co. — the much-anticipated debut restaurant from chef Chris Yang and partner Marcelle Gonzales Yang — without even realizing you did. From the outside, the only thing indicating the presence of what Bon Appetit named among the most exciting restaurants to open in the country last month is a pair of friendly pig face decals affixed to a slender front door just above the business’s Instagram handle. The rest of the glass-fronted facade hides behind wooden boards littered with colorful graffiti, which makes stepping into the restaurant feel all the more thrilling.
Over the past six months, the couple transformed a former brewery space into a casual restaurant inspired by Taiwanese night markets. There are skylights nestled into the tall ceiling, but the rest of the light comes from red and blue bulbs, which cast the room in a moody glow. For now, the restaurant’s open for dinner four nights a week, when Chris and the rest of the kitchen team push out plates of food that might not feel immediately recognizable as Taiwanese, but nevertheless draw inspiration from both Chris and Marcelle’s personal tastes and histories.
Both Chris and Marcelle are quick to point out they’re not doing traditional Taiwanese food — or even familiar Taiwanese street food — at the new restaurant. It’s a bit difficult to categorize exactly what kind of food they’re serving, they admit, but only because the menu is so deeply personal. “I guess to sum it up in three words it’s Asian comfort food,” Chris says.
Read on for the inspiration and preparation behind three standout dishes on the Piglet & Co. menu.
Honey walnut shrimp and pork toast
Already one of the most popular dishes on the menu, the honey walnut shrimp and pork toast at Piglet & Co. transforms one of Chris’s favorite Chinese dishes into a refined small plate. “It’s a loose interpretation of one of my favorite dishes growing up,” he says, explaining that he always enjoyed the sweet stickiness of honey walnut shrimp. Previously, Chris did a similar dish in sandwich form, an idea he hasn’t entirely ruled out for Piglet & Co.’s brunch menu set to launch later this month.
The sharable starter begins with a mousse made from ground white shrimp and pork, which the kitchen then breads in panko crumbs before deep-frying to a golden color. The result is a crispy but not-too-dense round of succulent shrimp and pork that’s plated on top of a candied walnut relish spread onto a sturdy slice of toasted milk bread. The shokupan, or Japanese milk bread, comes from Andersen Bakery, while the walnut relish, made with nuts that are first toasted and then cooked in butter and sugar, gives the dish both texture and a boost of sweetness.
To finish it off, the patty gets an artful drizzle of burnt honey aioli and a dusting of furikake — a sweet-salty accent across the top.
Charred Savoy cabbage
You’ll notice the Piglet & Co. menu leans meaty — Chris and Marcelle say they’re fans of barbecue and chicken wings, and the menu reflects those eating habits. But Chris also knew he wanted a cabbage dish in the mix, in part because in Taiwan “meat and cabbage” is a regular meal combo, he says.
Still, even the charred Savoy cabbage manages to appeal to carnivorous inclinations. The dish stars a quarter of organic leafy cabbage that’s been hard seared on a cast iron pan to the point of being “pretty much burnt,” Chris says. Then the whole chunk of vegetable gets submerged in pork fat, confited in the decadent runoff from the restaurant’s mala barbecue pork ribs. To build even more flavor, the kitchen grills and roasts the cabbage before dressing it in a black pepper gravy intended to draw on flavors similar to those found in peppery beef and broccoli.
The cabbage is served over a pool of verdant kalo soubise, a remarkably light riff on the French sauce, which stars taro plant leaves, a food staple across the Pacific Islands including Hawaii. Here, Chris and the team cook the leaves first in baking soda so it retains a bright green color, then blend them with a plethora of fragrant herbs: ginger, citrus, lime, cilantro, and more. The sauce lends the dish a necessary acidic element, Chris explains, something to cut through the porky flavor of the confited cabbage.
Chashao pork ssam
But if the vegetable dish feels heavy, at least the chashao pork ssam represents an attempt at keeping things lighter. Chris says he knew he wanted to have Chinese-style barbecue pork on the menu, but rather than serving it over rice — which, to be fair, is how the chef says he usually eats it — he opted to take a page out of Korean cooking traditions. “One hundred percent it’s Korean inspired,” he says. “But I’ve also had lettuce wraps in Taiwan.” The interactive set-up means diners will fold crisp leaves of lettuce around thick slabs of barbecued pork belly, which can and absolutely should be topped with dabs of delicately flavored white kimchi.
Chris says the menu will continue to change throughout the seasons, reflecting what’s growing and the continued development of each dish. Sunday brunch is on the horizon, along with beer and wine selections once the restaurant’s liquor license comes through. Mostly, the couple says they’re thrilled to have the doors open after many years lugging around equipment to pop-ups and festivals — followed by long months of searching for a space and then renovating it almost entirely on their own. The restaurant’s name, Piglet & Co., reflects how grateful they are to long-time fans and the San Francisco restaurant community at large, Marcelle says. “The ‘co’ is about that idea that everything that we have here is something someone else has helped us have,” she says.
Piglet & Co. (2170 Mission Street, San Francisco) is open for dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday brunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting on February 19. Reservations can be made via Resy.