Tonight I was invited to attend an event entitled "A Tribute to Pigs". Held at La Paloma, it was a battle of eight different restaurants - each presenting a different dish using pork as its main ingredient. The organizer has had some experience putting together a few of these "battles", and I was curious to see what it would be like, so I accepted the invitation to be a "judge".
This dish was AWESOME. Aside from the satisfaction of eating something that's covered with a layer of crispy breading, the contents were very, very tender. Shredded pork jowl has plenty of collagen, so it scored high on juiciness. A lot of work went into the making of the pigs ear bacon, and I loved it. The dressing and the Brussels sprouts also worked very well. Basically, it was tough to find fault with this dish. It was practically perfect.
There's a layer of pork liver pâté spread onto the slice of baguette, on top of which is shredded ibérico pluma. Then there's some kimchi and pear jam, and Cantonese minced ginger and spring onion (薑蓉).
I wasn't very impressed with this, and the fact that this was served right after the terrine from Linguini Fini really highlighted the difference in level. The bitterness of the liver came through, and while we knew there was kimchi here, it was so mild that the ginger practically covered it up. The biggest surprise, however, was the pluma. It was the main ingredient, and certainly the most pricy given it's pluma - and from ibérico pork, no less! Yet aside from the tenderness, there was nothing memorable about the pork itself.
While this was reasonably tasty thanks to the fat and the crispy exterior, it kinda reminded me of the Taiwanese dish of pork with red lees (紅糟肉)... which made this feel somewhat less of a creative dish. The more usual element of the dish came in the form of the side salad, which was made with mizuna (水菜), celery, and daikon (大根) radish... and came with a spicy dressing.
Suckling pig is something I find irresistible, and I have to say that the "sandwich" was very, very good. The meat was tender and the crackling had the requisite crunch. This was the kind that dish that delivered satisfaction.
What were my top three dishes of the night? I have to say that the terrine from Linguini Fini never got knocked off the top spot the whole night. The cochinillo from La Paloma got close, but no cigar. The merguez from The Fat Pig by Tom Aikens also made me very, very happy.
But the crowd disagreed with me, although not by much. The consensus put La Paloma in the top spot, followed very closely by Linguini Fini, and Okra took third. Our little table was surprised to find that the crowd had voted Tak Lung into fourth place, while pretty much all five of us relegated it to the bottom on our list. Oh well...
We're told that these dishes will be available in the respective restaurants from November 16-23, and three other participating restaurants - 22 Ships, Catalunya, and Rhoda - will also serve a special dish during this period. I might just have to run up to Linguini Fini during lunch one of these days and order up another terrine!
Many thanks to the Forks and Spoons for this kind invitation.