Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Curious Incident at the Spotted Pig in the Night-time

Ok, disclaimer upfront: this entry is light on detail about The Spotted Pig, a charming, hip gastropub in the heart of the West Village, headed by Michelin star chef April Bloomfield, and backed by a slew of famous A-listers: Mario Batali, Jay-Z, Bono, and Michael Stipe to name a few. I don’t have much to tell you about the food I sampled, and I certainly don’t have any scrumptious photos to share (I do have a funny one, though). What this entry is heavy on instead, is dirt. My personal dirt. I was debating whether to write such an entry given the lack of food particulars, along with a reluctance to turn this blog into Gossip Girl, but in a surge of optimism a few weeks back, I cited The Spotted Pig in “Blogs are a-comin,” and even alluded to “an exciting rendezvous.” If I have any loyal readers at all (I know I’ve got one up in Rochester —‘sup, Youngchae!), I didn’t want to disappoint.

So why am I short on detail, the girl who never goes out to dinner without her camera?


You know when you’re not quite ready to go on a date, but come across a fellow who reminds you of Edward Norton and James McAvoy put together, and you think, ‘Well, I’m ready to go out on a date with him’? That’s what happened to me! I met this Edward/James character, and figured it was prudent to pay more attention to him than the food, even if The Spotted Pig was a destination I had been extremely curious to try for some time.

I met up with a smiling Edward/James at 7:45 on a Wednesday evening. “It could be up to an hour and a half wait,” he said, in way of greeting/apology. [There are no reservations at The Spotted Pig; the web site instead advises: “You can always call ahead that evening and speak with our host, who will let you know how busy we are. If you are in the neighborhood, you can stop by and give your name and a number to the host, who will call you when a table becomes available. 8pm to 10pm is usually the busiest time.”]

We moved a few steps forward, ordered drinks at the small bar, and for the next 45 minutes to an hour, proceeded to get to know one another better. Bar seats were taken, so we stood, and when the hostess told us our table was ready upstairs, the quaint, cozy bar area had filled considerably.

Climbing the narrow staircase, it became apparent how such a little pub turns a profit. It’s not really a little pub—the restaurant actually seats 100, but small rooms, nooks and corners, keep the setting intimate. We were led to a corner room with only about six tables. I sat against the wall, and poor Edward/James pulled up a short bar stool.

We surveyed the one-Michelin star menu, seasonal British fare that sounded delicious and so unpretentious that it sort of became pretentious due to its unpretentiousness (“Bibb Lettuce Salad with Tarragon and Mustard Dressing,” “Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese and Shoestrings.”) We shared three plates (nothing from the entrees menu, as we thought we might want dessert):

Beau Soleil Oysters with Mignonette (6): $18
Fried Duck Egg with Ramps $16
Sheep’s Ricotta Gnudi with Brown Butter & Sage $15

By the time our oysters appeared, I was already impressed by my date, a budding ER doctor and perfect gentleman. I watched him load his first oyster, carefully applying the vinegar and shallot sauce. He tilted his head back, and down it went. I did the same: a wonderful burst of the sea. On his second oyster, however, an exciting incident occurred. Edward/James began coughing.

“Ooh, don’t choke,” I said, not quite knowing what to do. “I don’t think I know the Heimlich.” But then I paused. “…But how ironic would it be if I saved your life?”

The coughing subsided. In its place, the duck egg and gnudi appeared.

The Gnudi is legendary at The Spotted Pig; it’s the must-have dish if you go; if you type “Gnudi” in Google, The Spotted Pig’s gnudi appears on the first page, along with a song composed in its honor. It’s similar to gnocchi, but is made with ricotta instead of potato. Here’s an Ansel Adams-inspired shot of the gnudi taken with Edward/James’ iPhone; a candle was our only light (if you want a clear photo of the gnudi, there’s a beautiful one on the web site, in the upper right hand corner):
(Photo courtesy of hot ER doctor)

I took my first bite, eager to experience the sought-after little dumpling so many people have raved about.

It was a little salty.

Don’t get me wrong: the gnudi was melt-in-your-mouth creamy and decadent, with sage adding an autumnal comfort and warmth. It was just a tad bit oversalted.

The duck egg with ramps—essentially, a fried egg, with two slices of buttered toast—was rustic and soothing. But this was quite salty as well. The ramps were a treat, extremely fresh and garlicky.

Edward/James and I shared a lip-puckeringly tart lemon/lime tart for dessert, which didn’t really stand out. I think a firmer or more substantial crust might’ve helped. However, the coffee, delivered in its own French press, was deeply-roasted and rich.

Bottom line: I enjoyed the food at The Spotted Pig very much, and understand why there’s so much hype surrounding it. The scene is fashionable, the rooms are cozy, and the food is simple and satisfying.

The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th St.
New York, NY 10014
(212) 620-0393


  1. Whoo-hoo! A combination of the Spotted Pig and an Edward/James date... sounds almost too good to be true! You should try their burger next time, it is SO good. I really don't understand why people say it's overrated. Can you believe that the first time I had that burger, the waiter actually complimented me on finishing it? He seemed pretty impressed by my ability to put away food. Haha.

    BTW, what's your guess on Frank Bruni's replacement? I'm already bummed that he's leaving.

  2. When I look at someone your size, Youngchae, it's definitely hard to believe you could finish their burger. But I saw the way you cleaned every plate at Babbo's pasta-tasting--it was amazing.
    Frank Bruni's replacement? Methinks Adam Platt, but would love to see someone like Anthony Bourdain. Can you imagine? "This... has the consistency of... dollhead."

  3. Have you been more than once? I was surprised at how very different the Gnudi were from one visit to the next. The first time I went, they were veritably swimming in butter and salt. THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT. On Sunday night they were much milder, more balanced, with a distant spicy finish. An interesting variance, but does this mean the kitchen is inconsistent/unreliable? Say it isn't so.