Pig Feet - Les Halles. Park Ave, NYC.
Les Halles in NY, NY. Park Ave.
Anthony Bourdain is my lower case "g" god. This man has a sweet lot in life. He's a world class chef, a bestselling author and a host of one of the best travel/food shows on television today. On top of that, he's a New Yorker. There was one minor problem though with my idol worship, I've never actually experienced anything in real life from his temple otherwise known as the restaurant Les Halles. I've never stepped foot into the place let alone get a fleeting whiff of Bourdain boeuf. His website was the closest I've ever gotten to it, for crissake.
One night I finally got my shot. I was in New York with my dawg Alex, and we were taking major advantage of the free vodka happy hour at Show nightclub when I received a call from another friend inviting us to join him at Les Halles for dinner. Trying to be heard over DJ Apple Martini, I shouted into the celly, "Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles?" He replied, "Who?"
Our taxi drops us at the Park Ave. branch of this small brasserie chain. The place was packed even at that late dinner hour. It's a tight squeeze as I make like a pinball and bounce off my fellow diners all the way to the table. I say my bon soirs and wussups then bury my face into the menu. I know steak is the headliner here but I wanted something daring, different and delicious.
Suddenly, in the pork section, like in a cheesy sci-fi flick, the words "pig feet" began to glow on the page, shafts of light seer my pupils until I shut the menu and blurt out to the waiter, "I'll have the pig's feet!" Wow, was I drunk! When my order showed up, I strained to make out the pig part I thought I requested. It didn't resemble the pickled pork peds in a jar distorted through vinegar reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs. Nor did it look like my mom's braised five-spice pig feet which I had a yum/yuck relationship with all my childhood. It simply didn't have the shock value of a very unambiguous animal part sitting on my plate, namely the trotters kicking me in the teeth.
Instead it was presented exquisitely, almost like a dessert. The skin on top was torched for a crème brûlée finish. My fork cracked the crunchy skin then met a luscious layer of creamy fat and under that pierced the juicy and tender meat. Not a bone was struck. The flavor was just as magnificent. The sweetness of the meat and velvety fat were absolutely confectionary. No Valrhona chocolate mousse for me. I just had dessert in the guise of din-din.
I coupled my pork with a fine port which was a match made in hog heaven, albeit a lower case "h" heaven. Nonetheless, the pilgrimage was made and I tasted a bit of divine inspiration from a true kitchen god.