Saturday, November 6, 2010
Maialino: Dishing on The Whole Hog
Restaurant Name: Maialino
Restaurant Location: 2 Lexington Avenue, New York
Located in a quiet and idyllic spot just off Gramercy Park (actually off the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel), Maialino is Danny Meyer's latest gift to New York City. For this outing, Meyer has chosen to focus his Italian restaurant around that most humble-yet-glorious of beasts: the pig.
For regular readers of this blog, it will come as little surprise that I'm yet again extolling the virtues of a meat-centric, pork-heavy eatery. Vegetarian I am not, and Maialino would indeed be a tough sell for a vegetarian. There is very little on the menu to serve the herbivorous among us (even the side vegetables have bacon, guanciale, and the like in them).
Like many of Meyer's restaurants, Maialino offers diners two approaches to their meal. If you've made a reservation (about 2 weeks in advance), you can eat in the dining room. If you want to walk in and take your chances, then there is a bar area in the front with smaller, more casual tables. The service seems equally friendly-yet-distracted in both parts of the restaurant, and the menus are also roughly the same...BUT with slightly different specials.
There's the rub. The special dish at Maialino is the whole roasted suckling pig (serves 3-4). You can order this any day of the week in the dining room, but only on occasion in the bar. So, if you want to ensure you can have the pig, you gotta make a reservation. It's well worth doing this once. The suckling pig is truly awesome.
The meat is roasted to a melty, tender sigh-inducing perfection. Every bite of meat remains moist while the skin (oh, the skin!!) is crispy and toothsome and so very flavorful. It is, quite literally, the most perfect pig skin I have ever eaten.
The whole roasted pig is, as you'd expect, a gigantic portion. Our waiter claimed that 2 people could wrestle it down, but we gorged ourselves and still had about half of the meat left over. This actually turned out to be a good problem to have. Maialino's pig makes for great sandwiches later in the week. Though, a tip to the wise, the skin does not reheat very well - so be sure to gobble as much of that down at the restaurant as possible.
Oh, and the pig comes with roasted rosemary potatoes...you know, just to make it look a bit less like you are ordered and are eating nothing but a whole pig.
The other offerings at Maialino are also excellent. The first time we ate there we dined in the bar and shared a bunch of delicious pastas, cheeses, cured meats, and wine.
The super-awesome Malfati pasta came with a ragu of (you guessed it) suckling pig and fresh arugula. It was gone before I even realized I'd eaten it, though we found the Carbonara pasta to be overwhelmingly peppery. They've got an impressive selection of cheeses and house-cured meats to munch on. If you feel compelled to eat a vegetable here, I recommend the Kale with Chickpeas and Pancetta.
We were so full by the time dessert rolled around that nothing really sound good, so we let our waiter chose the bread pudding for us. It came out looking a little unglamorous, but DAMN, it was good. It was a classic brioche pudding plated via a ring mold. Inside was a warm, melted reservoir of chocolate. Yes, please.
Overall, Maialino was a big win in my books. If you go, though, please be sure to save me some roast suckling pig.