The Black Pig
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 12/05/14

So, now that we are back at it, we got to meet some friends we hadn’t seen for too long at the new iteration of the Black Pig in Cleveland. I knew they had just reopened after moving from 25th Street to Bridge Ave in Ohio City. I thought the locations were farther apart but it turns out they are both in the shadow of the West Side Market’s clock tower…the spire of Cleveland’s communal church of grocery.


Taters Very Well Done But Were Taters

The tiny move hasn’t changed the neighborhood but it has provided substantially more room. The building is dark and a mix of raw industrial and snazzy. Our diminutive server had the feel of something akin to goth-light but was knowledgeable, friendly and on top of things. She clued us into the restaurants passion for pork and that there were some Italian additions following the move. Once we got enough catching up in to consider the menu we ended up with appetizers and entrees X4, plus three desserts. Often we have found the starters to outshine the mains but things went in the opposite direction at the pig.

On the whole the first four plates were fine, they just didn’t have the punch or variety of flavors I would have desired. Crispy fingerling potatoes with truffle, roasted fennel aioli, and fennel greens were crunchily browned in delicious fat but the expected anisey tones of fennel never materialized. Nothing else was even trying to boost the little taters. Good taters, but I want more from a place like this. The more extravagant offerings didn’t fare much better.


The bread service was shy on bread and long on additions. We barely got through a quarter of the three condiments and were close to breadless. I am a bacchanalian philistine by nature but not even I will just chow down on a spoon of butter. Ech! Sorry grandma. She would make my mom “butter treats”. A stick of butter rolled in sugar. Where have all the good times gone? There was a gloriously rich butter on the plate, which just fatily disappeared with any heat at all, but it needed a little more salt to make it anything but fat. Same with the second quenelle sitting next to it. Get this, whipped lardo. Yup. Airy rendered pork fat. Incredibly rich but not enough flavor for me. I’ve had schmaltz, the chicken version of the spread, which carried the taste of roasted chicken. Not this stuff. The last addition was a small jar of a charcuterie and olive conserva…olives, sausage and some flavoring steeped in fairly good olive oil. The sausage reminded me of the Chinese Lap Cheong versions I’ve had…dark red, dense, a little spicy, along with tiny green and briny olives, some additional spice and herb. A dip of the bread with the fatty spreads got some kick of taste from the flavored oil. Better.


The Bread Service, More Service Than Bread And Flavor

Heart Tartare Too Clean For Me


When no one was listening I added an order of the Ohio venison heart tartare. Still of the mind, if you are going to eat the backstraps you should find a use for the rest. Served with a beet tapenade, egg yolk and golden beets the circle of offal was clean and earthy, but too clean for me. Most beef tartares have a squirt of mustard, some capers, a little onion, something to punch up the dish. I suppose I was looking for more of that.

The last of the four apps was the Berkshire pork belly with curried squash, root vegetables, cranberry and peptitas. The pork was wonderfully braised, just falling apart and glistening with awesome. Again, good, clean. I guess I am a sorta dirty kinda guy. A little sweet, or heat, or acid, or whatever would have made me happier.

Fortunately, the entrees were coming.

Just Needed A Little Something To Balance Beautiful Belly


Our four were a Tagliatelle Bolognese made with pork and beef, tomato and parsley; two sausages… a Pork and Foie Gras with braised red cabbage, apple strudel and a shallot jus; and the porcini and bacon with potato puree, a roasted onion, blueberry mustard and mushroom; and Roasted Golden Trout, on fregola sarda, with pork sausage, swiss chard, kale and a bacon consumme. They got some pork into the fish dish…Bravo.

The pasta dish was seriously prepared. Wide and clunky pasta was a perfect al dente and had a magnetic effect on the light tomato sauce and the heavy succulent meats contained therein. Just a couple bits of this and you knew you had eaten something. The sauce Bolognese was traditional outside of the meats with a little sweetness from carrots and layers varying flavors from other vegetable based goodness. Nice dish.

Maybe the dish I coveted most was the roasted trout. The bitter greens and the fregula (tiny Sardinian pasta balls, like Israeli cous cous) added welcome notes to the dish. I think I missed the pork sausage, unless it was strewn throughout the fregula but the bacon consume, added tableside, was crystal clear and smoky delicious. None of that mattered all that much. The fish itself was stupendous. Enveloped in a crust you would need a micrometer to measure, the spice and texture it brought to the trout was a showstopper. Then there was the fish itself. Clearly fresh, expertly cooked, glistening, flaky, if you like fish, this is the fish you dream of. If you don’t like fish you really should try something like this.


Exceptional Pasta With Rich Sauce

Wishing I Had Ordered Fish In The Pork Restaurant? Yuop.

Known for pork, two of us tried the housemade sausage. Both were excellent, even though I may still have tried to swap for the trout. My pork and foie sausage wasn’t my favorite of the two, but only because we had two. Smoothly ground and rich, the links were accompanied by my favorite sides. A wee brick of apple strudel? Uh huh. Sweet and oniony pool of jus. Check. Insanely good braised cabbage…I’m used to a more German vinegar/sugar mix…this was almost all sweet like cherry juice and was a perfect foil for the luscious link. I enjoyed the flavor of the porcini and bacon links a little more but found the puree and mustard less exciting. The sausage was dank and earthy in a wonderful way with some smoke and sweet pork to make multiple bites pleasurable.

Good Sausage, Great Cabbage Balance With The Sausage

Preferred This Sausage But Not The Sides

The apps were functional, the entrees ruled the day, the desserts were strangely satisfying.

The oddest twist was the dark chocolate truffle. Wonderful and intense dark chocolate ganache coated with more chocolate, some chocolate crumbs, a swipe of caramel sauce and a quenelle of white stuff. The white stuff was cramping my brain… remembered white from the menu and had it stuck in my head it was white chocolate mousse. It tasted nothing like white chocolate mousse, but my brain had settled and didn’t want to consider other options.

When we asked our server she told us it was white truffle, not chocolate. Snap. The brain suddenly allowed for the obvious…ha, ha, ha,..truffle and truffle. I don’t know that it works as well as dark chocolate and cayenne, but it was interesting.

White Huh? Oh.

An almond financier (fancy cake name) arrived with candied pistachios and two interesting ingredients. Smoked apple nuggets and parsnip ice cream. The smoke on the sweet apple spheres was tasty and made perfect sense and there was much more ice cream than parsnip in the parsnip ice cream, it all worked well and was interesting enough to keep tasting.

The last dessert was my favorite. I had expected it to be my least. Eggs n Bacon. Vanilla bourbon panna cotta, brioche toast crumbs, bacon and spiced orange. Sweet Breakfast Batman! I don’t care for panna cotta. Not sure why. Maybe the gelatin dilutes without enriching like eggs coagulating or however else you are going to set a custard. These little half orbs not only looked like eggs, they packed serious sweet vanilla and bourbon awesomeness. This is where funny looking results in better eating, kinda like the first time you see the inside of a Cadbury egg and think ewwwww…followed by ahhhhhh. Add some spiced citrus, toasted brown brioche gives texture and well, brownness and then there is bacon. Fun and delicious.

Our first journey to the new Black Pig was a blast and studded with food from good to great. If you are in the area and haven’t been, reconnect with some good friends over interesting and tasty vittles at the new pig.

Smoked Apples Were A Nice Touch On Financier

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