Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: pork belly

New York City 2012: Porchetta

DSC_1616Porchetta – the single, most carnal name ever allowed to grace a meat dish.

So if you happen to name your establishment after the hallowed Italian Roast Pork Of The Gods, I’m going to expect choirs of angels trumpeting my entrance into the shop till kingdom come.

Needless to say, my divine encounter didn’t happen, but I had this greet me, which was pretty darn close:

DSC_1615A bronzed, crackling Belly of The Beast.

I didn’t manage to sink my teeth into any while I was on real Italian soil (remember my shame for not asking for some while at Dario’s?), so this was the nearest thing to redemption, or perhaps the closest thing to self-pity. Either way, I’d rather not ponder further on that.

Pork belly, with boned-out pork loins stuffed in its core, rolled up in alternating layers of fat, meat, herbs, salt, and skin, is tied up with string and roasted till the moist meat yields to the slightest pressure of a butcher knife, here, in an oven here at Porchetta. I know, I know, I can’t help but feel that I’m still short-changing myself at the end of the day, having never tasted Italian Porchetta the Italian way (rhyme!), roasted over wood and hauled up to a wooden chopping board for a feast. But still, this is salty, salty meat, of the most primeval kind. I’m having it.

DSC_1613The star in all this is, of course, the meat. It doesn’t quite matter what else you have with it, or what vehicle you require to get it into your mouth. I went wild for the crackly chunks of skin, like salty nuggets of treasure among fantastically seasoned and flavourful meat. The herbs used were suitably earthy, presumably a mixture of some thyme, sage, rosemary, and garlic. Perfect.  I would have liked more skin. A lot more skin, and a lot more meat. Perhaps a larger sandwich.

Oh just give me the whole hog.

We shared a Porchetta Sandwich ($12), yet given the choice again, I’d pass on the dry ciabatta (which was unfortunate, really) and order up a Porchetta Plate ($15) instead. I also didn’t quite hear a choir of angels, not even a squeak, but I was somewhat pleased nevertheless. I would be content with a healthy serving of porchetta and garlic sautéed greens, which I’m assuming are broccoli rabe or some kind of chard or chicory, of the slightly bitter variety, perfect as an accompaniment to savoury meat.

Porchetta doesn’t have much seating since most locals do take-aways, but there are about eight seats inside. All things considered, this is still a rather pricey sandwich, but it’s probably the closest to Italy that I’ll be.

And if I had the chance to head to New York City again, I’d just live in the Lower East Side. That’s where all the food that you’ll ever need to care about reside. That was an unintended rhyme.

Porchetta

Address: 

110 E 7th St
(between 1st Ave & Avenue A)

Restaurant Ember – Another great set lunch find

It’s not quite a well-kept secret anymore that Ember’s set lunches are an absolute steal. At $39.40++, their excellent 3-course lunch doesn’t just aim to impress, but to entice and rope you into repeated visits of your own will.

If you take a look at their 3-course set lunch menu, you will eventually realise that its stunning variety of dishes to choose from is meant to please, to befuddle, and to frustrate in the best way possible. Having to choose among 3 to 4 types of foie gras for your appetiser becomes what is possibly the best sort of happy problem there can be – because you will get your dose of fatty goose liver anyway.

Ember has been around for years now since it’s opening in 2004, fusing robust European cuisine with the intricacies of the Asian cuisine. It’s a modest restaurant located in Hotel 1929, a boutique hotel establishment, seating perhaps no more than 40 people in its airy interior that is furnished simply in light tones of brown. Lit warmly from the midday sunlight streaming in through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, suffice to say, it was a welcoming setting for our little SMU Gourmet Club event (or perhaps not so little since we took up half the restaurant). Service was attentive and efficient from the get-go. Your napkin will remain on your lap as much as possible if the wait staff can help it.

A restaurant’s bread sets the stage, as most will agree. The tomato foccacia that floated out of the kitchen, while most of us were still bustling around and trying to settle down, was warm and crackly as good bread should be. It was perfumed with rosemary, thyme, and specks of sun-dried tomatoes, the combination and taste standing strong on its own without additional butter. But warm, crust, tender bread without butter? Who are you kidding? You’re already on a roll (pun-intended), so just go with it and start shmearing your bread.

The most outstanding appetiser went to the Roasted and Poached Foie Gras with Mirin, Shoyu, and Shiitake, essentially just fatty goose liver on a bed of braised shiitake mushrooms. But that’s an understatement, because the thick, sweet and salty Japanese-influenced sauce was a smashing hit with the juicy shiitake. Whip that all up with a slab of creamy foie gras poached to tender perfection, and you have a mind-bogglingly crazy-sounding ingredient combination that works. No figs, no apples, no prunes, nothing classically sweet in the dish at all. Just pure savoury bliss.

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