If the logo looks familiar, that’s because The Surfing Pig is the sister restaurant of Kono’s, which originated in Haleiwa and now has locations in Kapahulu and Kailua. Kono's is known for its fun, surf-inspired decor and more importantly, for the 12-hour, slow-roasted kalua pork that's in its sandwiches, lunch plates, tacos and breakfast bombers (aka burritos).
While Kono’s is designed for grab-and-go, Surfing Pig is a full-service restaurant. There's a pig theme in the decor and seating in the upstairs loft, at communal dining tables in the bar or at a chef's table in the kitchen (more on that later).
Kono’s slow-roasted pork features on the menu, but the new restaurant specializes in small plates and craft cocktails, plus wines and beers on tap. Carlos Buhain, the executive chef, says 98 percent of the menu is made at the restaurant, and the meats are smoked in-house.
The Smoking Pig cocktail, made with bacon-infused bourbon and orange bitters, is great if 1) you like bacon and whiskey, and 2) you want something different. Smoke billows out when the cloche is lifted, and the smooth whiskey and citrus undertone come with a lingering bacon aftertaste. That’s a good thing.
These crab cakes are made with 95 percent lump crab. You won’t find any fillers here, and each mouthful delivers fresh, crabby goodness.
This has to be one of my favorite small plates on the menu. A New York strip steak is lightly seared, seasoned with Hawaiian salt and served with grated onions, daikon, sesame oil and soy sauce. Thinly sliced, the meat almost melts in my mouth, with the onions and daikon adding a nice crunch.
Mac and cheese fans will appreciate the strong Gouda flavor and the chewy, spiral-shaped gemelli pasta. The porchetta is crispy and a little dry but delicious with the mac and cheese. While it's on the small plates menu, the dish is hearty enough to be an entrée.
Brick chicken is seasoned with lemon, thyme and rosemary, then pressed on a flat top and pan fried to perfection. Tender and flavorful, it’s served in a lemon beurre blanc sauce with a tasty mushroom medley, but it’s the Sriracha fried rice that I want more of long after the dish is gone. The fried rice is full of smoky, savory flavors with just a slight kick.
“Some people think chicken and fried rice is an odd combination, but it somehow works,” Buhain says. “This dish is more about the contrasting flavors.”
Trust me — you don’t want to pass this one up.
This duo features Kono’s signature kalua pig slider with Asian slaw, and a beef slider with bourbon onions. The juicy, tender kalua pig is just as succulent as I remember from my first visit to Kono’s Honolulu spot.
Surfing Pig doesn’t skimp on meat, but the ribs don’t have the tender, fall-off-the-bone quality of baby back ribs. These are St. Louis style with a dry rub, so they’re tougher. Be sure to eat the ribs together with the refreshing Asian slaw — the slaw truly makes all the difference.
Fun fact: You can ask to sit at the chef’s table inside the kitchen, so you can watch and talk to Buhain and his crew as they prepare your meal.
Stay tuned — the restaurant plans to roll out a lunch service.
The Surfing Pig
3605 Waialae Ave.
Sun-Thurs 4-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 4-11 p.m.