Three Fat Pigs and Ippy's Hawaiian BBQ, Philip "Ippy" Aiona's latest ventures in Waikoloa




Three Fat Pigs.

Food Network Star is less about cooking than Top Chef (though it's hard to tell with these "reality" shows). Contestants on the former have to pay attention to their voice cadences and prove their likability on the camera; by that metric, Marcel Vigneron would never have made it as far as he did on Top Chef.

So when a Food Network Star, or even a finalist, opens a restaurant (ahem, Guy Fieri), what is one to expect?

On last season's Food Network Star, Philip Aiona, aka Ippy, from Waimea, proved his likability as a laid-back 23-year-old from Hawaii. He didn't win, but in less than a year since the show ended, he's opened two restaurants in Waikoloa. The first: Ippy's Hawaiian BBQ, a takeout counter in the Queen's Marketplace food court with a terrific soy-braised pork belly sandwich topped with furikake fried onions, offering more soul than its neighbors Arby's and Dairy Queen. The second, the one that has everyone really excited, is Three Fat Pigs, which Ippy is calling Hawaii Island's first gastropub. On the menu, he defines "gastropub" as a "bar and restaurant that serves high-end food and beer." The concept is easy to love: a place that pays as much attention to drink as food, a menu of ingredients not often seen in Hawaii (hello, bone marrow!), and a whimsical menu that introduces items like a fairy tale.


Above: bone marrow; below: pork belly with corn soup fritters.

The menu keeps up with all the en vogue food techniques and trends (not unlike a Food Network Star)—there's sous vide and spherification, pig parts and brussels sprouts—but the dishes show inexperience with the ingredients. The bone marrow arrives partially dried out and hard (though the bites that we manage to scrape out of it are divine, tasting like the savory, distilled essence of beef). Brussels sprouts are making a comeback because chefs have figured out how to roast them or serve them raw for best texture and flavor; here, shaved and baked, they return to the lifeless vegetables we avoided as kids. But the fact that bone marrow and brussels sprouts are even on the menu, especially in such a touristy locale, shows some guts. And there are bright spots, like the addition of candied lemon peel in the brussels sprouts and, for entrees, the softest pork belly imaginable. Served with red wine braised cabbage, it's like kalua pig and cabbage all grown up. Pork belly, it seems, is Ippy's forte in both his casual and high end outposts.

Dessert can run into Guy Fieri gimmickry, such as with a miracle berry sampler, enlisting the help of the miracle berry, a fruit that turns your tastebuds topsy turvy, making sour things taste sweet. I suppose it's part of the magical, fantastical, fairy tale world that Three Fat Pigs is trying to construct, one that perhaps, with a little more time and experience, could end in a happily ever after.

Three Fat Pigs, Entrees $20 to $36
Inside King's Shops 69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa, Hawaii Island, (808) 339-7145

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