Chris Cosentino is passionate about pig. At his San Francisco hot spot Incanto, he’s been extolling the pleasures of the porcine for years. Now, he’s opened up Pigg within the brand new Umamicatessan complex in Downtown Los Angeles. Nose-to-tail swine cookery, as it appears, is being taken to an whole new level here – literally. There’s a custom-built ham elevator for storing and rotating his impressive collection of foreign and domestic hams for all the diners to see.
At Pigg you can find all parts of the pig tricked out for mass consumption—crispy pig ears, whipped lardo and a brain/aioli hybrid condiment called brainaise dots the menu. And if there’s something that looks a little sinister (a little dangerous), it’s the Iberico de Bellota crudo. To put it more plainly, Chris Cosentino is serving raw pork, sashimi style—and he’s pissed off that you think it’s going to make you sick.When I asked him what he says to people that bristle at the idea of eating raw pork, he gets incensed.
“I tell them to shut up and eat,” Cosentino railed. With the CDC only reporting an average of twelve trichinosis cases a year between 1997-2001, it’s clear that the pork industry is safer than ever before. Couple that with the fact that this is Iberico de Bellota, the most well-respected pork in the world, and you’ve got a product that people don’t need to be afraid of anymore.
The crudo looks eerily similar to bluefin sashimi. It’s served as several thin slices of beautiful ruby-colored pork dressed with really good olive oil, Meyer lemon, mint and little curls of radish. The texture is the same as bluefin, too. In its raw form, pork takes on a lightness that’s really unexpected because the flavor is subtle in ways that you never get with cured ham. Balanced with the acid from the lemon and the fruity olive oil, I found myself saying something I never thought would come out of my mouth: pork crudo is really good. You just have to get past your mom’s voice in the back of your head saying you’re going to die from eating raw pork.
Cosentino says that Angelenos are loving the crudo so far, but there are still people who aren’t sold on the concept. “I’m not afraid to challenge people’s boundaries,” he says. “People need to get over their food fears.” It may take a while, but Cosentino is determined to win them over. After all, he says, “If people aren’t afraid to go to McDonald’s and eat pink slime, then what’s the difference?” The man has a point, so shut up and eat.
Pigg at Umamicatessan
852 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Read Chris Cosentino’s report from his recent trip to Hong Kong on Food Republic.