Friday, July 4, 2008

The Spotted Pig

I forgot my camera, so I don't have any pictures for this review, which is too bad. We ate lunch here, and we probably could have snapped some decent photos since we actually had some honest to goodness sunlight - not the dim lighting of your typically evening dinning room. Anyway, on with the review.

I had heard a lot about the Pig. The head chef, April Bloomfield recently had a strong showing on Iron Chef and made a cameo on Top Chef last season; Anthony Bourdain listed this as one of his favorite places on a recent episode of No Reservations; and this Greenwich Village gastro-pub has received glowing reviews from just about every critic that walked through the door. It has one Michelin star and is a "Top Pick" of the New York Times. Friends I talked to said that they tried to eat there twice, and both times were rebuffed by the three hour wait times (reservations not accepted at this place). In short, this place is scorching hot right now. It may be one of the trendiest restaurants to be seen at this season. Given all the hype, I expected to love the place. It was good. I love food and would be hard pressed to find a meal that I don't like, so "good" is a bit of a lukewarm review. I'll include the caveat that I ate lunch here, so the menu was limited, but the full dinner menu didn't include a ton of additional options. On the website, I saw pictures of servers maneuvering through crowds with plates bearing half of a pigs head or pieces of roasted marrow. That's the sort of food I was hoping for, and was disappointed to not find it on the menu.

When we walked in, we didn't have to wait too long to get a seat at the bar, where I quickly ordered a Bloody Mary - they are supposed to be amazing. It was nice and thick with a decent amount of horseradish and garnished with a pickled green bean. It's that word again...good.

It only took about 15 minutes to get seated at a nice table upstairs. The upstairs dining room has an additional bar and is significantly more spacious than the first floor. Like the first floor, every inch of the walls are covered with some sort of kitschy decoration. Most of the decorations have a pig theme, but there are several illustrations of vegetables and other bucolic subjects. A couple of large mirrors with menus and beer-lists scrawled across their surfaces adorn two of the walls upstairs and help open the space up a bit. I loved the decor. Very cool.

Once seated, we ordered the deviled eggs and chicken liver toast. Both of these were good, simple dishes. The egg tasted like it had a bit of vinegar in it, giving it a bit more of a kick than your typical deviled egg. I'm not sure why I keep ordering chicken liver dishes. I don't really like chicken liver, but I feel like I should, as a non-vegetarian foodie. Anyway, I actually thought this was pretty good for a chicken liver dish. The liver was seasoned and blended into a fairly loose spread and served on grilled toasts. Charred bits of bread really complemented the liver flavor well.

For our main courses, Abby and I orderd the gnudi (a ricotta dumpling served with brown butter and crispy sage) and the ricotta and prosciutto tart with marjoram. The gnudi were good, but they seemed a little out of place on an the menu for an English gastro pub. I guess they are a popular dish, though. So, give the customers what they want, right? The tart seemed like a more fitting menu option, and the crispy pastry shell, the saltiness of the prosciutto, and the sour taste of the ricotta all went together quite well. These were good dishes, but would I wait three hours for them? Not a chance.

The atmosphere alone probably makes this place worth going to, but I don't think its worth a long wait (I MIGHT wait for an hour to eat here). You also have to pay quite a bit for what you get. One diner sitting next to me looked shocked when he was served the bib lettuce salad ($14). It was a plate of lettuce, lightly dressed with a light vinaigrette (probably oil and lemon) and a light sprinkling of herbs. I think a problem was in the presentation. It looked like a naked plate of lettuce. Hardly the kind of thing you want to pay more than a couple bucks for, even if it is some damn good lettuce.

My recommendation would be to go here during lunch when the wait is more reasonable or wait a few months and see if the hype dies down and the crowds get more manageable. Even though I wasn't totally impressed by my first trip, I would definitely go back. There are several other menu options that I would like to try out before going against the conventional wisdom and saying that this place is overrated. Again, I really want to love this place and hope that future visits will change my mind.

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