The September 2010 issue of Bon Appetit recently named The Purple Pig as one of the 10 best new restaurants in America. You can find the online reference here. What a title, right? You can imagine the hopes and expectations I had built up with a review like that.
Silly me, I left the SLR at home this evening. Never fear! My dinner date came through in a pinch with her camera, so you do not have to suffer through a review sans photos.
The first order of business at The Purple Pig was a plate of cheese. Have you ever been asked the question, “If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?” No? Okay, maybe that’s my own way of getting to know someone…Anyway, one of my three is CHEESE. Holy moly, I could eat the stuff non-stop. Our cheese selection included Manchego, Parmigiano Reggiano and Bucheron accompanied by fig jam.
After studying abroad in Madrid, Manchego holds a special place in my heart; but the real show stopper here was the Bucheron (the cheese at the top of the photo). The white, spreadable cheese was salty, creamy and the perfect amount of tangy.
Next, we went with the Prosciutto Bread Balls.
Without the SLR sitting on the table staring me in the face, I was a little slow with the picture-taking (okay, maybe it was the wine…). I believe this dish came with 6 bread balls, not 3…but hey, I do what I can. These were very tasty, but not mind-blowing. The bread balls were salty, as to be expected, but were not notably flavorful. The tomato based sauce had a nice acidity that balanced the salty, bread balls but it did not add much depth of flavor beyond that.
Since my whole motto around dining and ordering out is “No Regrets”, I can’t turn down a raving suggestion of a menu item, no matter how crazy. Case in point: bone marrow. That might sound bizarre, but I was excited to give it a try.
Can you see what the forks are sticking out of there? Yep - BONES! How crazy is that? Welp, not crazy at all apparently. Behind the parsley and fennel, there is a little row of toasted bread as well. I immediately grabbed my fork and began to scoop up the marrow, slather it on a crusty piece of bread and sprinkle that wonderful sea salt right on top. Juxtaposed against the crusty bread, the marrow didn’t seem to have much of a texture of its own. It didn’t seem to have much flavor either. Mostly, it came across to me as a very rich hybrid between olive oil and butter. Not offensive or bizarre in the least.
Per recommendation of our server, we also ordered the Octopus with Summer Beans, Fingerling Potatoes and Salsa Verde.
Aside from the Bucheron, this was my favorite dish. The lemon and fresh herbs in the salsa verde complimented the perfectly grilled octopus with a clean burst of flavor. The texture of the octopus was perfect – meaty and smooth – and the light smokey flavor provided by the grill could convince you it was still summertime.
Last, but not least, dessert! Between recommendations and the process of elimination, we landed on the Sicilian Iris. Our server described this as a doughnut filled with Ricotta and chocolate. We have already discussed my undying love for cheese, but doughnuts are another story. Light, airy glazed doughnuts frustrate me greatly. They are delicious, yes, but they leave me feeling empty inside. Such a deceiving feeling given the amount of calories they pack. All grudges aside, we went for it.
“Doughnut” does this baby no justice! It’s a fried brioche, which is different enough from a doughnut for me to be in love! The brioche was more cakey and dense than a glazed doughnut, but not quite as heavy as a cake doughnut. Perfect! As the Iris was broken open, creamy ricotta and melted chocolate oozed onto the plate only to be quickly sloped up with porous pieces of brioche. Now that’s a mouthful of magic right there.
Overall, I enjoyed The Purple Pig and would return. However, with all of the “10 best restaurant” hype, The Purple Pig did not meet my expectations. My date and I concluded that The Purple Pig could be mistaken for a miniature Publican. From the menu focus on pork and beer to the C.O. Bigalow lotion and soap sets in the bathrooms, this place could pass for a pocket-size version of the Publican. (Although, the Publican does it better in my opinion). A note on the size – The Purple Pig is small, which can be comforting and very European if it’s something that you like. On the other hand, my date and I waited 25 minutes to be seated in doors and we received a seat at the bar. I rather enjoyed being perched in front of the kitchen and having Jimmy Bannos Jr. ask us if we were enjoying our food, but it might not be your thing…just a heads up.