The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th Street @ Greenwich Street
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 620-0393
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Pub Food
Area: West Village
Entree Price: $15-20
There is no way to say this without inciting a Running-of-the-Bulls style rampage over to the corner of West 11th and Greenwich Street, so I am just going to say what I have to say, and hope that you don't all run at once. Promise? Okay. The Spotted Pig is flawless. From the moment you walk in, until the moment you leave, flawless. The service is great, the welcome is warm and genuine, the food rocks, and the place is comfortable, lively and hip in an understated and permanent way. It is the sort of local joint every 'hood craves.
The place has rustic countryside tavern vibe that feels like it's been there forever. And to make things even better, chef April Bloomfield's short menu of hearty seasonal American "Pub" fare is succinct and simple, featuring dishes that are executed with impeccable technique and that are heavy on assertive balanced flavors, making licking your plate clean a simple task.
Let's start with the Gnudi with Crispy Sage and Parmesan ($8). Everyone must order this appetizer. But first, we must get comfortable with the word. These are not Gnocchi. Similar, in concept, but very different. These are Gnudi. (Say NOOO-di.) Gnudi are pillows of hot, soft, sweet cheese. (High on the yummy scale.) The chef takes fresh, creamy rounds of sheep's milk ricotta cheese, lightly dusts them in a bit of semolina, and then pan fries them in a nutty beurre noisette with fried sage leaves and freshly grated Parmesan. These little dumplings, the size of fat grapes, are light, lovely, fun, and recklessly delicious. Pop one in your mouth, and break through the slight semolina crust, and the hot ricotta cheese oozes out in and fills your mouth with creamy richness. Baby, this is bliss. Order them in bulk. Do not share. Really. Eat them all yourself. It will not be a difficult task.
While we were digging into our Gnudi, our eyes practically rolling into the backs of our heads they were so deliriously good, the table next to us ordered the smoked haddock chowder with crackers ($7), and we had a small bit of food envy. The creamy broth was thick with fish and had a rich smoky aroma that was almost intoxicating. It's on my list for the next time. Next, we had the squid and mussel salad ($9), a lively mess of plump mussels and miniature hoola hoops of chewy squid, simply and correctly seasoned with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped parsley. There is no need for anything more on the plate, and so there is nothing more on the plate. Now there's a concept I like. Ms. Bloomfield is a talented chef who has been well schooled in the art of culinary restraint. Bravo.
Chef Bloomfield's fish cakes are also remarkable in their simplicity. A pair of hockey-puck sized cakes are fashioned form skate and cod, with no filler other than the fish and herbs. They were perfectly browned with a slight crust from being seared in a hot pan. Slice one open and they you'll find they are dense with fish, but still light and feathery on the inside. Remarkable. They are served, again, quite simply, with a glossy shock of tart homemade lemon aioli and a bright mound of broccoli rabe, rich with garlic. We also had the housemade pork sausages, slightly spicy wurst, that were served beautifully blistered and topped with tomato confit over a bed of lentils that get a jolt of texture and heat from some fresh chopped arugula. Desserts are as simple and delicious as the menu. We had the lemon tart, basically bruleed lemon curd in a crust of dense buttery pastry. Chef Bloomfield also serves the Rivercafe's famous Chocolate Nemesis, a mind numbing flourless chocolate cake that is remarkably rich but amazingly light at the same time. It even had me, not a chocolate lover, digging in for second and third spoonfuls.
The Spotted Pig gives people what people they want. A neighborhood pub with magnetic appeal that serves food you want to eat every day. Alone, with friends, on your way back from work. Whenever, this is a place to have a pint and see a familiar face. Just remember, do not, under any circumstances, share those Gnudi.
Review By: Andrea Strong