Her first reco was Black Hogg. And Black Hogg is about as good as any restaurant I have ever been to. Including anything in NY. At first blush I wasn't expecting much. The name is kind of a throwaway. Okay you serve pork. That's original. And the interior is sparse and dull and uncomfortable looking and looks unfinished. And the last ding is the chef is Korean. I like some Korean cooking but a lot of the recent Korean-[insert cuisine]-fusion cooking that has been going on lately is basically an exercise in adding gochujang (which is a very monotonic tasting pepper) or kim chi to something (see Korean tacos) and its almost universally underwhelming. I'm looking at you David Chang.
The first hint that something good might happen though is that the chef trained with April Bloomfield at Spotted Pig and also worked at Eleven Madison Park (both in NY and both great restaurants). And then one look at the menu at the Black Hogg and a conversation with the bartender also suggested things were going to be interesting. The word Korean only pops up once in a throwaway 'pork belly in a bun' dish that we passed on and I get the feeling even the chef is a bit embarrassed about. The rest of the menu is INSANE in its creativity and the use of really varied flavors from all over the world. This is the kind of cooking I've sort of been waiting for.
- Popcorn bacon is reminiscent of a southern appetizer I had in Brooklyn once (Char No.4).
- Spicy chicken liver toast was pretty much what you would expect but the addition of charred serranos was really pleasant. Just a small thing that added immensely to the dish. Others have commented that it outshines the liver at both Animal and Mozza (which is stiff competition)
- Brussel sprout hash seemed like it would be a throwaway-copycat-overdone dish but the addition of an egg on top actually changed it to something remarkably new.
- Bone marrow was transformed by tortillas (yes it was basically a bone marrow taco) and this amazing cilantro-radish salad sprinkled on top. The bright acidic flavors work well against the buttery marrow. OMG it was just amazing and I'm going to shamelessly steal this idea.
The three standout dishes though were
- Lechon asado fries which I describe as a Mexican poutine. This was transcendental in its cleverness. Fries, kurobuta pulled pork, potatoes, mojo de ajo (garlic sauce), queso fresco, crispy pork skin, and some unknown powdered spices over the top. I crave this thing nearly every day.
- Lamb belly tacos. Lamb belly! OMG. What have I been doing with my life. L-A-M-B B-E-L-L-Y. Lamb belly. In a taco. With middle eastern harissa slaw, garlic cream, cilantro, and a spicy salsa. Probably my favorite dish ever. I would make this every night if I knew how.
- Roast mushrooms in a box. Brioche box to be exact. This was simple pure French cooking executed flawlessly. Chanterelles and criminis plus brown butter plus a slice of brioche. So well done. So so so well done.
At the end you couldn't care less about the decor. Or anything else. You just think about that one day when lamb belly tacos will no longer be served here. And you cry a little.