I’m a bit perplexed about pork right now.
It’s still an incredible ingredient—bacon in the salmon chowder might be the reason that Matt’s in the Market bested Bobby Flay in this week’s Food Network Throwdown. And I wait with bated breath for Seattle’s third annual Cochon 555 event, where I’ll be again sitting as a judge while five amazing chefs try to wow us in preparing plates from five heritage pigs.
But that said, pork problems prevailed during two otherwise fine meals I had here in Seattle recently.
The first was at Book Bindery, choice for my birthday dinner. We ordered scallops and sweetbreads as appetizers and enjoyed them both, though I’d argue that the latter should be correctly called “sweetbread,” as there was just one on the plate. The fish entrée was my favorite, as the pan-seared striped bass and its accompaniments were both beautiful and delicious.
But the “duo of pork” yielded mixed results. The pork chop was great, but the pork belly was pure fat. Well, maybe the slightest layer of meat, if I’m to be generous. After the disbelief of my first bite, I had to go in again, and it was the same, so I pushed it aside. As it’s rather dark in the restaurant, I pulled out my low-light camera to capture a shot, which you can see just above. (The entire plate is in the top shot of this post.)
Next up was Lecosho, where I joined a group of food writers who wanted to explore much of the menu. The server was sweet about dividing up the Sardinian fish soup, and we also enjoyed the octopus salad. Then came four entrées. My gorgonzola burger? Check. A cheese-lover’s dream. (The accompanying parmesan soup was a bit bizarre in texture and taste, though.) Tuna melt? Well-executed.
As for the pork, it was another mixed bag. The house-made sausage with lentils was masterful—hearty and perfect for the winter day. But the porchetta sandwich? Unchewable. It got passed around the table for second through fourth opinions, and we all complained that couldn’t eat it.
Now, please know that I love pork as much as anyone else. I’m the one who complains when restaurants remove the layer of fat from pork belly for fear of offending the customers. The one who had the shortest stint of vegetarianism way back when, but still bought bacon to fry (not to eat) so that my scrambled eggs could cook in bacon grease. (Okay, I guess that didn’t make me a true vegetarian.) The one who made bacon ice cream well before Baconopolis became an annual event in Seattle. The one who loves the concept of anything close to bacon-wrapped bacon.
Should we have sent the problem pork dishes back to their respective kitchens? I don’t tend to do that, and agree with fellow food writer Jonathan Gold’s perspective on that practice. But the restaurants do deserve to get feedback on how their doing. And hopefully that will keep them from going too hog-wild with bad pork dishes.
Here are photos from the full meals:
Book Bindery (see here what makes this restaurant sexy)
Sweetbreads with Caramelized Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Brown Butter Emulsion
Marinated Scallops with Celeriac Remoulade, Black Truffle, Garlic Bread Crisp
Pan-Seared Striped Bass with Piquillo Peppers, Satsumas, Castelvetrano Olives, Pinenuts
Duo of Pork: Roasted Chop, Crispy Belly, Lacinato Kale, White Bean Puree, Maple-Bourbon Jus
Sardinian fish soup (divided portion)
House-made sausage (see here what makes this dish sexy)