Saturday | April 25, 2015
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A fairy-tale restaurant

The Three Fat Pigs and The Thirsty Wolf, a new restaurant and gastropub by 24-year-old Waimea chef Philip “Ippy” Aiona, is a foodie fairy tale come to life.

Visitors will encounter lots of tasty surprises at this jovial modern spot, which opened Monday at the Kings’ Shop in the Waikoloa Beach Resort area. It’s a hybrid of sorts, offering a casual-meets-refined atmosphere where food connoisseurs, adventurous eaters, craft beer geeks, cocktail lovers, the well-traveled and normal people will mingle and consume happily ever after.

Here, the drinks are just as important as the food, and the cuisine is not pigeonholed, giving Aiona, a former “Food Network Star” finalist, what he says is the best excuse to make exactly whatever he wants. His goal is not to please as many people as he can or feed the masses. Instead, Aiona said he wants customers to leave satisfied and obsessed, talking and sharing with others about what they ate. He thinks it will be a commendable accomplishment if people not only eat the so-called fancied peasant food he serves, but truly love it.

“This is really approachable adventurous eating,” said Nikki Martin, another “Food Network Star” finalist who is also a food and beverage consultant from California.

Aiona chose the name The Three Fat Pigs and The Thirsty Wolf because of his appreciation for a good fairy tale and his desire to do something whimsical. With this playful theme, he said his take on fine dining feels less stuffy. Aiona’s inspiration for his creations don’t come from soul-searching jaunts or walks in the woods. When he comes across things that are delicious and he continuously enjoys, he tries to elevate them. For example, his enjoyment of adobo led to his creation of a braised short rib with a sweet, sour and salty glaze.

The menu for the restaurant, The Three Fat Pigs, offers a feast of intriguing morsels, such as duck confit potpies with curry and pickled green papaya; crispy pig tails with pickled watermelon and Worcestershire lemon espuma; roasted bone marrow with French bread and roasted tomatoes; a 40-hour slow-cooked and cured pork belly with red wine cabbage, sweet corn soup fritters and plum sauce — and crisped pig ears with sweet brined grape tomatoes, shaved fennel and mixed greens tossed with a spicy mustard vinaigrette. Diners are taken on a culinary journey beginning with, “Once upon a time, there was a small plate.” Appetizers and salad cost $12 to $16 while entrees are $18 to $24.

The Thirsty Wolf is the hip gastropub above the restaurant, open until midnight on weekends. Using Gourmet magazine’s definition, Aiona said a gastropub is “a pub that puts at least as much thought into the food it serves as into the beer it dispenses.”

At The Thirsty Wolf, over-the-top bar snacks, such as deviled eggs and boiled peanuts, featuring twists, will be served. A variety of small-batch liquor and craft beers from around the world will be available. Martin has also helped create all types of cocktails for this new eatery. Aiona described Martin as a tremendous asset. Because “she’s not stuck in the Hawaii realm,” he said she’s able to used ingredients from the land and local flavors in a new, exciting way. These drink concoctions and beers will cost $5 to $13.

There’s also a charcuterie bar offering delicious cured meats, cheeses and homemade jams.

“This will be Hawaii Island’s first gastropub. We are very excited Chef Ippy decided to make Kings’ Shops the home of his first full-service restaurant,” said Steven Schwartz, Kings’ Shops general manager.

Aiona said he’s grateful for the experiences he’s gotten from being in the limelight, including being featured as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30,” because all of it has resulted in more opportunities to showcase his food, as well as more credibility. He is also appreciative of his parents, Max and Robin Aiona, also partners in his new venture and his biggest supporters.

Being a chef and owning his own restaurant has been a childhood dream. Both his parents owned successful eateries — his dad ran the now-closed plate lunch spot, Kamuela Deli, and his mom has Solimene’s in Waimea, at which he worked as an executive chef for several years. As a boy, Aiona could often be found licking the remains of his mother’s creations left in the pots and pans. He fondly recalled his excitement in third grade when after midnight Mass, his parent gave him his first set of cookware. A year later, he got a spice rack, equally as exciting.

Late last year, Aiona opened Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ in the Queens’ MarketPlace in the Waikola Beach Resort area. There, he put a twist on the iconic Hawaiian plate lunch by offering brined rotisserie chicken basted in homemade teriyaki sauce, furikake mahi burgers, miso fried chicken and more.

Besides taking risks, his advice to budding chefs and restaurateurs is to get a good education. Aiona was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. “Education is the best investment,” he said. “The beach will always be there. Learn as much as you can and always try to do your best.”

The Three Fat Pigs and The Thirsty Wolf is open daily. Dinner is from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Lunch is not yet offered, but will eventually be served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended. For more information, call 339-7145.