Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chicago: The Purple Pig

To round up my Chicago trip, we had just enough time to squeeze in dinner at the wildly popular Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue. The restaurant serves up food that I would categorize as gastro-restaurant with lots of shareable dishes, served with a Mediterranean flavor. Unfortunately the restaurant does not take reservations so there was a large crowd waiting outside for a table at 6pm.

The restaurant has seating inside with communal tables, a bar area and the coveted outdoor patio area. Since it was just a friend and myself for dinner, we knew our chances of getting a seat was higher if we chose to sit at the bar. The hostess was nice enough to let us know when a party was closing out, so we really only waited for 10-15 minutes.

There are quite a number of pork dishes on the menu, but The Purple Pig also has a nice selection of cheeses, vegetables and other meats (clams, veal, lamb).

The Purple Pig has a nice selection of charcuterie and spreads.
Pork Neck Bone Rillette and Mostarda ~ I liked that the rillette was spreadable. It was rich and salty, and paired with a tangy-sweet fruit preserve. The only disappointing factor was that the bread was burnt. Even when we asked for more, they came out burnt too. Must be something wrong with the kitchen timer.

Roasted Corn ~ A nice side dish to help balance out all the meat dishes that we ordered. I liked the texture of the roasted corn which had a slight char to it and a bit of caramelization. The corn kernels were mixed with mushrooms, nuts and fried rosemary. I liked the sweet- salty combination, and how fresh this dish was.

Pig's Ear with Crispy Kale ~ Seems to be a one more their more popular dishes. The thinly sliced pigs ear were lightly breaded and crispy on the outside with a crunch from the cartilage. I just love the texture of pigs ear. Also loved the combination of fried kale and pickled cherry peppers. I thought the fried egg did a good job of holding everything together. Once you broke the yolk and mixed everything together, what seemed like a salad quickly because a warm creamy dish.

Octopus with Green Beans ~ The texture of the octopus was firm, but tender, and its flavors were not too oceanic. In fact, when you cut up the octopus to pieces, they could pass off as a firm calamari steak. The octopus was served with fingerling potatoes and a acidic and zesty salsa verde. I was glad to have ordered some lighter dishes to compliment the heavier pork dishes.

Pig's Tails Braised in Balsamic with Grated Egg and Parsley ~ I really enjoyed this dish. The meat from the pig's tail was very tender and fell off the bone. There was also lots of bones to the tail, which made it fun to slurp up all the meat and sauce around the bone. I've had pig's tail before but only in Asian preparation so I found the flavors interesting in the use of the sweet/tangy balsamic vinegar.

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes ~ Probably the only dish that I was not impressed with as the pork shoulder was not tender. It was tough to cut through and was rather stiff. Also, it was topped with an unsightly yellow mashed potatoes.

The Purple Pig is a fun place to grab a bite if you are relatively new to the city. It's loud and vibrant, and the dishes are unique and fun to share. Granted there were many tourists (you could tell, they were wearing sneakers and toting cameras) but I found the dishes interesting and the food good.

The Purple Pig
500 N. Michigan Ave.,
Chicago, Illinois 60611
(312) 464-1744

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