My main memory of a small, second floor space in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is Showa and specifically its rich, porky tonkotsu ramen. That restaurant has closed (and, sadly, the former chef’s Showa Ramen at Bloom restaurant is nowhere as good as the original), but in its place is pork a plenty at Le Petit Cochon.
Chef Derek Ronspies had been working with his brother Dustin at the highly acclaimed Art of the Table before branching out with Le Petit Cochon. The vibe is casual and playful (case in point: the first menu item is “Derek’s Nut Sack”), but the mission is serious: “Nose to tail…a sustainable way of dining on a whole new level.” Ronspies is dedicated to using the whole animal, offal and all, so look for parts like tongue, testicles, and trotters on the menu.
Ronspies attributes the quality of his food to the quality of his ingredients, so he sources them carefully, and he’s quick to praise his suppliers. “I want to know where my food is coming from, and that’s hitting me harder now that I have my own restaurant,” he explains. From foie gras to duck feet to pig face to trotters, the products have a connection to real people who Ronspies values as colleagues and friends.
While there’s a lot of meat on the menu, Ronspies wants the dishes to have many interesting elements. Despite working with limited space, he’s pickling, smoking, and fermenting a number of ingredients, with plans to do more as he settles into the small kitchen. Ultimately, Ronspies says, “Le Petit Cochon is about food, family, and fun.”
Read on for a look at what’s on offer at Le Petit Cochon.
The Cauliflower Bisque is topped with a tempura shrimp and almond dust, and contains a sweet, briny raisin and caper salad.
Buffalo Duck Feet come with a “trogurt” (cilantro yogurt) and hot sauce. Even those who have a hard time biting down to the bone can enjoy the sauce, though the web and the little knob of meat at the intersection of the bones are worth fighting for.
Slices of Salmon Gravlax are plated with horseradish cream, pickled celery vinegar, and pink peppercorn and radish relish. There’s also a crispy poached egg.
Duck Fries are not duck fat fries, but instead duck testicles served with corn succotash, chanterelles, bacon, onion soubis, and sherry vinegar.
Several specialty cocktails are available from the bar. From the “Up” section of the cocktail menu, the autumnal Gourd in Kentucky has bourbon, Dolin sweet vermouth Zucca amaro, house-made pumpkin syrup, and grated nutmeg.
Blood Sausage is surf and turfed by fried oysters, and comes with marinated spinach, kabocha squash puree, pecan buttermilk dressing, and pickled apple.
Stacked up is the Open-Faced Mortadella Sandwich. It contains cured foie gras and apricot jam on a square of oat cake. There’s also pistachio butter and pickled green beans.
In the Pork Belly and Octopus, Ronspies prepares the proteins to have similar textures. The pork belly is roasted to be firm instead of melt-away fatty, while the octopus is soft instead of chewy. Full of Asian flavor, the dish comes with smoked bok choy, fennel kimchi, chili jam, fermented black vinegar, and Rooster Sauce.
The Phat Ass Pork Chop is phat indeed, apparently requiring exactly 28 minutes of preparation time. Served on a cutting board, it comes with cheddar grits, collard greens, drunken plum jam, and mustard vinegar.
Ronspies is making his desserts in-house, calling them Happy Endings. The Chocolate Torte comes with mint ice cream and vanilla parsnip puree, topped with candied ginger and malt crumble.
(Originally published at Serious Eats on October 8.)