Monday, April 25, 2011

The Spotted Pig: Go Often, But Go Early

To call The Spotted Pig "popular" would be a gross understatement. Ever since opening in 2004, this West Village gastropub has been perpetually packed to the gills with hungry diners. Backed by an array of music industry titans, Chef April Bloomfield and her business partner Ken Friedman, lay claim to one of Manhattan's more popular restaurants-- and most sought after stools. Boasting an impressive beer selection and Bloomfield's refined approach to English pub grub, one would be wise to visit the Spotted Pig during off hours or risk hour-plus waits. But while dinner may indeed be worth the wait, multiple visits have taught me that the best option is weekday lunch.

Walking into the Pig, one would be hard pressed not to notice this motif extending beyond the restaurant's name. Sporting cozy bars on both its floors, the Pig is decked out in all kinds of porcine kitsch and is adorned with old butcher charts and other food related images. Of course, none of this is likely to matter, as my attention is focused on the restaurant's excellent food.

To whet your appetite, consider ordering a bar snack (or three). Here, even the ubiquitous Deviled Eggs are anything but your average garden variety. With the help of a ricer, Bloomfield achieves a supremely smooth yolk piped into a perfectly shaped egg white and seasoned with chive, chili flake, salt and a splash of olive oil. While not my favorite (that distinction belonging to the deviled eggs at Resto), there is no denying that these make for a seriously addictive snack.

More to my liking are the Pig's Chicken Liver Toasts. A mound of warm and creamy chicken liver is piled high on two deeply charred toasts. Drizzled with a fruity olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt, the crisp toasts are the perfect foil to the succulent chicken liver.

While the burger gets most of the (well deserved) attention, you'd be committing a major screw up to pass on the Sheep's Milk Ricotta Gnudi with Brown Butter and Sage. Related to gnocchi, gnudi contain even less flour, resulting in ethereal pillows swimming in a nutty browned butter sauce and topped with fried sage leaves.

Of course, an even greater sin would be to visit The Spotted Pig without ordering their famous Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese and Shoestrings. Sort of a gussied up pub burger, this version boasts a thick patty of ground beef provided by none other than Pat LaFrieda. Grilled perfectly to temperature (a pink medium rare on four different occasions), the burger is topped with a slab of pungent Roquefort and sits between a house-made brioche bun. Juicy and well seasoned, this burger requires no additional accompaniments aside from maybe a handful of the provided shoestrings.

Speaking of those shoestrings, these wonderful wisps of crispy potatoes are tossed with some salt and rosemary. Perfectly suitable as side, in my opinion, they are even better when smashed into the burger and eaten recalling memories of my childhood when I would crush potato chips into my sandwiches.

But the biggest advantage of going to the Pig for lunch, aside from avoiding the epic waits, is the restaurant's awesome Cuban Sandwich. Only available during weekday lunch, this is no ordinary Cuban. Bloomfield has improved each component while managing to maintain the original's synergy. The Balthazar Bakery bread used provides a crunchy yet chewy base for the sandwich and the succulent Heritage Pork Shoulder (slow roasted in duck and pork fat), tangy Pickled Jalapeños, salty Proscuitto de Parma and nutty Gruyère combine to form a great sandwich which more than justifies its $18 price.

Thanks to Bloomfield's inspired fare, despite its celebrity regulars and prolific waits, The Spotted Pig has yet to become a victim of its own success. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In spite of the success of The Breslin and The John Dory, The Pig remains as consistent as ever, and Chef Bloomfield can be regularly seen in the kitchen, keeping an eye on the quality. So if you're lucky to live in this fine city (or visiting on a weekday), heed my advice and go often, but go early.

The Spotted Pig
314 West 11th St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 620-0393

To see all the pictures from this meal click HERE.

Spotted Pig on Urbanspoon

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