The Pleasures and Perils of Pork at Book Bindery and Lecosho

book_pork_duo_500I’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.

book_pork_problem_500The 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.)

lecosho_porchetta_500altNext 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)

book_sweetbreads_500Sweetbreads with Caramelized Cauliflower, Golden Raisins, Brown Butter Emulsion

book_scallop_500Marinated Scallops with Celeriac Remoulade, Black Truffle, Garlic Bread Crisp

book_fish_500Pan-Seared Striped Bass with Piquillo Peppers, Satsumas, Castelvetrano Olives, Pinenuts

book_pork_duo_500Duo of Pork: Roasted Chop, Crispy Belly, Lacinato Kale, White Bean Puree, Maple-Bourbon Jus



lecosho_soup_500Sardinian fish soup (divided portion)

lecosho_octopus_500Octopus salad


lecosho_tuna_500Tuna melt

lecosho_sausage_500House-made sausage (see here what makes this dish sexy)

lecosho_porchetta_500altPorchetta sandwich



3 Responses to “The Pleasures and Perils of Pork at Book Bindery and Lecosho”

  1. January 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I think there are few times when bacon doesn’t make things better. (Bacon Beer might be an exception for me). However, getting a piece of meat so tough you can’t chew it, or so riddled with fat that you have a mouthful of chewy sliminess, ruins a meal. I’m so sorry that happened on your birthday!

  2. December 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    I’ve been a bit confused about the usage of pork belly. I’ve had it before at Cascina Spinasse, and thought it not too bad. However, that was the only exception. I agree with Mikaela about “chewy sliminess.” Such comes across as unappealing.

    I’ve raised swine before, and I’ve come to the thought that the real problem with pork belly is that the pig was not lean and muscular enough. If the ratio of meat to fat was higher, then people would have less chewy sliminess and more bite and flavor. If I recall correctly, that was what made Cascina Spinasse’s pork belly better than other’s. It was that there were enough bands of meat to keep the belly fat interesting. It was more like a chunk of unsliced fatty bacon than merely fat. And a smokey piece of bacon is always on the winning side of a question mark, right?

  3. Jay
    December 22, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Isn’t it about the cut that gets served? I tend to have good luck with pork belly at Asian restaurants. They don’t trim the fat completely, but leave an appropriate amount on the meat. Balance!

Leave a Reply