I promised awhile ago to do a full write-up of the large format feast we enjoyed while visiting New York City. Unfortunately, with all the travel and flood shenanigans this piece got put on the back burner for a bit. In any event, here are the details on the whole thing.
The large format feast took place at Resto, a Belgian gastro-pub that sits just off Park Avenue in the Lower East Side. Their website describes the feast very succinctly: “Chef Robert Hellen will compose an elaborate nose-to-tail meal for you and your friends.” You pick the type of animal you’d like to devour and they create a selection of dishes using just about every part along the way. In addition to providing a unique culinary experience you can also go home happy knowing that not a lot of waste is being created.
For our feast a pig was selected from a nearby farm to be the offering of choice. We had 16 people dining with us so it actually required them to acquire two pigs. The dinner was broken down into a first course and then family style seconds and thirds. We sampled many Belgian Ales along the way but what follows is only a description of the food consumed.
First Course: Amuse-Bouche
An excitement of the taste buds!
French for ‘mouth amuser’, an amuse-bouche is a small introductory plate that is designed to excite the palate. A bite of pork tenderloin was served over a blueberry jam with a horseradish potato salad. The tenderloin was well-complemented by the sweetness of the blueberry and the spice of the potato salad. From this point we were ready to get rolling.
Second Courses: Salad with Pork Leg, Sausage Plate
This salad was the lightest dish tasted all night
The first of two seconds was a salad served with a side of pork leg. A poached egg topped bitter summer greens that were tossed in a vinaigrette concocted from the pig itself. Served alongside was a pork leg that had a crispy skin on the outside and meat that was so juicy and tender that it was easily pulled apart with a fork.
A pork leg so juicy you could literally see it oozing
Also served as a second course was a selection of three different sausages. First, a spicy chorizo that was full of flavor. Next, a sausage blanc, or white sausage. This sausage was extremely light in texture with a skin that had a delicate flavor of orange. Finally, a blood sausage that had been removed from its skin was served in ramekins. The blood sausage was not only unique in culinary design but also boasted a delicious, earthy taste. This was my favorite item out of everything we ate.
Sausage blanc hides among greens, curled-up chorizo, and blood sausage
Third Courses: Side of Pig, Pork Roulade, Pig Sampler
Things got even more interesting with the arrival of the third courses. First up was a side of pig that had been roasted and was served amongst greens and gratin potatoes. The side of pig was prepared with the skin on and included pork ribs. While the meat was good, this dish was, in my opinion, the least original and most unspectacular of the evening. It was also the only plate that wasn’t totally devastated by our party.
Side of pig that left a little to be desired
Next up we have the pork roulade accompanied by fresh mushrooms and caramelized onions. The roulade was created using the majority of the pork tenderloin which was then rolled with some vegetables and, I believe, fried to give it a crispy outside. It had a nice flavor but was not as moist as I would have liked. The caramelized onions were the best I have ever had. That’s not hyperbole theater either. It’s unfortunate when a main dish is overshadowed by something as simple as some onions but they really were that good.
Sadly, the world's best onions are barely visible here
Finally, there was a selection of three items which I have chosen to refer to as the ‘pig sampler’. Most notable of these was the pig head which had been fried and served whole. The pork cheeks could be sliced off providing a taste of the most tender and delicious cut of meat on the entire animal. The ears could also be removed and were crunchy and crispy like tortilla chips. Rounding out this third course were salt & pepper spare ribs and a braised pork leg with a root beer demi-glace that was absolutely to die for.
Who are you looking at?!
In addition to serving up a culinary treat unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, I have to commend Resto and their staff for a wonderful evening overall. The entire feast lasted more than three hours and at no point were we ever rushed. They allowed us to eat the food at our own pace, drink our beers, and reminisce as long as we desired. Designing the dishes for a meal of this nature was impressive enough, pulling off the entire meal without a hitch for 16 people was a true spectacle to behold. Bravo Resto.
Lastly, a very hearty thanks goes out to Kameny for inviting us to dine with him for his unique birthday celebration and to everyone else present who made the night one to remember. Here’s to more experiences like this in the future. Cheers!
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