Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Meat Lover's Fantasy Island - The Spotted Pig
Restaurant Name: The Spotted Pig
Location: 314 W. 11th Street, New York City
Like a college girl on a Saturday night, the Spotted Pig stands chest-out on a corner in Greenwich Village, daring everyone to look; it is a loud, brash, riotous fantasy island for the lover of all things meaty and true. Just penning this review is calling up memories of rich, fatty, raw goodness. Excuse me, I need a moment.
Okay. The first thing, in case you don't already know, is that the Spotted Pig does not take reservations and always has a wait. Happily, it is well-situated in Greenwich Village and if you can't find a way to kill an hour in this neighborhood then perhaps you really should just stay at home. (My suggestion: while away the time down Bleecker at Murray's Cheese)
The second thing you should know is that this NO PLACE for a vegetarian. Yes, they have a fish dish on the menu, but the only true vegetable dishes are the sides, which are mostly potatoes (you can order a "meal" of 4 side dishes). I'm sorry for people to feel left out, but such is life. This is a meaty place. Embrace it.
After our requiste hour-long wait last Friday night, my husband and I were finally led upstairs into the labrynthine depths of the restaurant. The whole place is really a bar from top to bottom and it was crammed with bodies: bodies perched on stools, bodies hanging from the bar, bodies waiting on line for the ladies, bodies festooned with ridiculous cowboy hats and vests....you get the idea. Whatever the menu prices might lead you to believe, this is not a "nice" place. It is very loud. It smells like a frat party. It is also worth every penny.
But, of course, when we were first seated at a rickety table with two stubby stools as chairs set next to a mountain of coats, we were a bit nervous. The prices are not low here, not at all. But we need not have worried. No indeed.
We started out with the pork rillettes. They were served cold with a glistening layer of fat on top and they came with hefty slabs of grilled bread, cornichons, and mustard. They were so fabulously good - just the right amount of salt and a hint of something nutmeggy, but really mostly just awesome porky flavor. The fat alone was good enough to eat by itself. The mustard cut the richness perfectly.
For our entrees we had the skirt steak and the hamburger. The steak is served one way and one way only - medium rare. It glistens and is so flavorful that you want to get up out of your chair (I'm sorry, stool) and do a little dance. When we asked the server, he reported that after its extremely brief flirtation with a hot pan the steak was doused with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and finely ground chili flakes. Neither of us have any recollection of what the skirt steak was served with because it was totally, utterly irrelevant.
The hamburger was brought out on a plate heaped 100 miles high with shoestring fries (see photo above). They were really salty (in a good way) and had been tossed with crispy rosemary leaves, an ideal companion for the salt. My first thought when I saw the burger, though, was "what the hell is that lame-looking thing?" It was a bun, some meat, and a little mound of blue cheese looking lost and alone in an otherwise garnish-free land. I thought it was going to be so dry and boring that I almost wept. Then I took a bite. It was perfectly pink from top to bottom and so tender and warm that it felt a little (indecently) like eating a live animal might. The flavor was a mild, addictive, almost olive-oily beef taste. No pushy seasonings, just the highest quality, perfectly cooked ground beef. The blue cheese was all the adornment needed.
Now high on protein, we were somehow persuaded by our server to try a dessert called the "Banoffe" - a sort of layered puff pastry dish with sliced bananas, Dulce de Leche, and cream. The first suprise (not necessarily a good one) was that it was cold. After we got over this, though, we found it addictively caramely and didn't stop eating until the last bit of Dulce de Leche was swiped off the plate.
As for drinks, this seems to be a beer kind of place. I ordered a seriously over-priced glass of wine (they had a legitimate-seeming list, but the wine was not at all good). Next time I'll follow my husband's lead and get their housemade beer. It'll pair perfectly with all the meat I plan to cram in my face.