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Roast Suckling Pig At The Breslin Is An Experience In Salt, And Courage

April 2, 2012

Try not to think of it as cute.

Like most guys, I love getting together with the boys to go eat too much meat, get a bit drunk, and have  a few laughs. Most of the time, this time-honored ritual involves beef. But once in a while, after one has given Keens and Peter Luger a thorough walkthrough, someone comes up with the wacky idea of trying “theme and variation.” To wit: How about a whole roast suckling pig at the Breslin?

After receiving my invitation to this event, I consulted with contributor Hugh. His line on it was “don’t go.” He described his own whole roast experience – which did not take place at the Breslin – as traumatic and unpleasant.

Nonetheless, I opted to sign on. I’m glad I did, as the experience was well worth doing, but I don’t know how quickly I would do it again.

A promising menu.

The Breslin is a big, dark bar in the Ace Hotel. It has a vaguely hipster vibe. The “Chef’s Table” is a large table just in front of where the servers pick up the fare from the kitchen. You secure a reservation in advance (I don’t recall if they have two or three seatings at the Chef’s Table per night). Obviously, the pig requires preparation. The impact of that is once you sit down, there’s scarcely time to order a cocktail before all of the fixings start landing. As you can see by the menu, those fixings include a deliciously mustardy Caesar salad, the crazy delicious pork fried potatoes, and more.

The pig as it is first presented at the table.

The pig lands and everyone breaks out their mobile phones to take snapshots. There’s paparazzi for the dead pig. Even people not at our table came over to snap shots.

It’s quite easy, surprisingly, to make the leap past “cute little piggy” to “that looks delicious.” The butchering then begins.

Butchering the beastie.

Your hipster waiter arrives with tongs and a butcher knife and starts chopping the pig up. He severs the head, legs and then starts serrating the various areas of the meat. He’ll introduce you to the various parts: The ribs, the butt, the shoulder, etc… .

Now like most folks, I have had all of those various pieces individually elsewhere. And as you might guess, I think ribs taste differently from shredded pork shoulder which tastes different from butt and so on and so forth. This was monumentally naive on my part. What makes those various cuts taste different from each other, more than any other thing, is how they are prepared. This was such a “duh” moment for me. For whatever reason, I had it in my head they would taste as I had previously had them. Fool – the whole thing is done one way. Duh!

Believe it or not, that's a rib.

Another thing that was surprising to me (and perhaps will get you thinking about going Kosher) is what the best part of the roast pig was. It was the skin. Crispy, salty and delicious. Of course, it is somewhat revolting to think that you’re licking your lips (and fingers) after horking down some skin, but that’s what you’re in for.

Where there is a difference in the experience has to do with the texture of the piece you’re eating at any given moment. The ribs, for example, wound up being “barely there” while the shoulder and butt were fattier and meatier.

Some salsa to add diversity.

Honestly, the whole thing is a swim in a salt sea. The meat is tender and delicious. The salsa verde and roja add some necessary diversity to the flavor profile after a while. And once you’ve gone through the bulk of the pig, they then bring on the “Truth or Dare” portion, where things do get pretty digusting pretty quickly, the butchered head.

Yes, that's the eyes, nose, cheeks, and brains.

As you can see, the butchered head reveals the brain, eyes, jowls, snout, etc. And of course that is totally gross, no matter what. And when you dump that in the middle of a group of men, machismo will assert itself, and there emerges a “dare” component to the meal. Several of my amigos scooped out brain, which they described as being like foie gras, but I contented myself to taking their word for it.

I did sample some jowl, which was essentially a gel of pork flavored fat.

So yes, there is a gross-out component, but essentially you are in for a mass quantity of salty salt salt pork.

A brief aside to again tout the amazing pork fat fried potatoes. They were ridiculously good.

I’d say on balance, if you’re a true carnivore dedicated to eating, it is a worthwhile experience. I don’t know that I’d repeat it any time soon, but I think I wouldn’t say no if asked again at some point in the future.

The Breslin

16 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
One Comment leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    April 12, 2012 5:33 pm

    I enjoy bacon, ham, pork, and ribs partly thanks to the slight semantic disconnect between them and “pig” proper. Smart, docile animals, I’m told.
    Good photos.

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