Dec 19, 2010

Cheese, Swine & Wine

The Purple Pig's signature Bone Marrow

The buzz about The Purple Pig in Chicago is deafening. It's one of the restaurants my foodie friends blurt out automatically as a recommendation for a dining destination. Not to oppose a friends advice, I reserved a nice banquette
lunch table for one on a cold, yet sunny day last week. The main entrance is located in the side courtyard of 500 N. Michigan Avenue. You can't miss the purple canopy.

The Purple Pig is small by Chicago standards: 3 communal tables, a row of banquettes and seating at the bar. It is modern, yet all the wood cabinetry and banquettes cozies up the place. I arrived at 11:45 AM; fifteen minutes before the place got crowded for the daily lunch rush. The hostess who sat me was friendly and gave me the option of selecting my table, which I thought was very considerate for a single diner. 

As the title states, TPP specializes in pork, cheese and wine. However, the menu offers a cornucopia of selections from cured meats, sandwiches, salads and a wide assortment of small plates. Though on this lunch visit, I limited myself to the first specialty. Vegetarian? Don't despair because TPP offers quite a selection of vegetable small plates such as the Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, Brown Butter & Ricotta Salata ($6); Salt Roasted Beets, Whipped Goat Cheese & Pistachio Vinaigrette ($5); and Castellfranco, Arugula with Sunchokes, Hazelnuts & Apple Cider Vinaigrette ($7). For the heartier appetite, indulge in the Pork Blade Steak with 'Nduja & Honey ($14); Pig's Tails Braised in Balsamic ($9); Octopus with Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes & Salsa Verde ($10); and the Coppa Panini with Provolone Cheese, Pickled Cherry Peppers & Whole Grain Mustard ($8). 

Filipinos make this bar food called sisig, which is composed of sauteed chopped pigs face, ears and hot peppers. With that picture in my head, I ordered the Pig's Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers & Fried Egg ($6). I accompanied that with the Fried Brussels Sprouts with Thyme, Lemon & Chili Flakes ($6). The Pig's Ear came out in a swine shaped bowl. The ears were cut up in strips, dipped in batter, fried and topped with a perfectly fried egg. As the egg yolk smothered its yellow goodness on the fried strips, my mouth started to water and my first taste of the concoction did not disappoint. The batter was airy and the combination of egg, strips and peppers were outstanding. 
I was expecting the brussels sprouts to come whole, but each leaf was meticulously peeled from its core, fried and then tossed with the lemon, thyme and chili flakes. The texture of the veggie was amazing though on this occasion, the amount of lemon in the bowl overpowered the dish.

I asked my server for his recommendation as TPP's best dish, and without hesitation, he suggested the Bone Marrow, which was not listed on the menu. Done. The Bone Marrow was served with Toasted Crostini's and a Simple Salad with Capers and Onions. A beautiful presentation I must say. The bone marrows were still bubbly from the oven. The marrows were silky and translucent. I spread the marrow on the toasted bread, sprinkled some salt, and as I glimpsed at the piece before I opened my mouth, I experienced marrow euphoria. What a dish!

Not to overlook, the service was also very attentive. My server was respectful of my photographer/writer persona and did not make me feel like a nuisance as some snotty servers have in the past. I also noticed that the manager made his rounds around the room and connected with several of the guests including myself. 

The Purple Pig is the real deal. I wouldn't hesitate sending any of my friends to this "pork" joint in the middle of Mag Mile. It was definitely worth the 4-hour train ride from Grand Rapids


The bar area before the lunch rush
Nothing like tap water in a nice bottle
Fried Brussels Sprouts
Pig's Ears topped with a Fried Egg
A perfectly brewed Illy cortado
Back door
My hostess prepping my table
A closer look at the Bone Marrow 
Lunch crowd

3 comments:

Roberto said...

Wow George. I just finished eating a good helping of Pampano, eggplant, & bitter melons; but my mouth watered instantly after reading this.

George Aquino said...

Thank you. TPP is definitely on my list of favorites in Chicago. Thanks for the comment.

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