[Chicago] The Purple Pig
Voted as one of the ten best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit Magazine in 2010, the Purple Pig serves up delicious Mediterranean tapas. The slogan “Cheese, swine, & wine” pretty much sums up what the Purple Pig is famous for.
Charles and I went to the Purple Pig after we finished our architectural cruise (which I highly recommend!). Located on Michigan Ave in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, it was easy to find the Purple Pig. It was 4 pm on a weekday but the restaurant was packed!
We weren’t too hungry and just wanted to try a few of their popular dishes.
We started with pig’s ear with crispy kale, pickled cherry peppers and a sunny-side-up egg. As a proud Taiwanese, I am very familiar with pig’s ear in Taiwanese cuisine. Pig’s ear is usually braised in a seasoned soy sauce, sliced into slivers, and then tossed with a mixture of garlic, scallions, and chilli peppers. It is usually served as a side fish or appetizer. The contrasting gelatinous outer collagen layer and the crunchy texture of the inner cartilage provides an unparalleled experience when eating it.
So that’s my experience with pig’s ear – Always braised to maintain the chewy and crackling texture. The pig’s ear at the Purple Pigs was very thinly sliced, lightly battered, then fried. The exterior was quite crunchy but dissolved quickly in the mouth. Our waiter suggested us to pop the egg yolk and coat the pig’s ear with it. The pickled peppers added a faint spicy and acidic taste but blended perfectly with the rich creaminess of the gooey yolk. I especially enjoyed the crispy kale. Charles and I both really enjoyed the pig’s ear.
Our second dish was the milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes. The pork shoulder was surprisingly tender and succulent. The mashed potato was smooth and creamy. This was a solid dish.
Our favourite was the pork secreto with romano beans, marinated red bell pepper & pickled watermelon rind. “Secreto” means “secret” in Spanish. The secreto is a strip of tender pork hidden beneath a thick layer of belly fat. Cooked to a medium well, the centre of the pork still had a light pink hue to maintain all the juice. The meat was lean, but lightly marbled with fat to produce a rich flavour. It was well seasoned and marinated with red peppers and pickled watermelon rinds. The acidity of the peppers and watermelon rind contrasted the natural sweetness of the pork. The dish was very scrumptious and flavourful.
We were seated on the covered patio, but I went into the restaurant to take a quick peek. The interior was very cozy and intimate.
Our experience at the Purple Pig was very positive. The food was well executed and the staff was very knowledgeable and courteous. The price was also very reasonable. I’d highly recommend those visiting Chicago to give this restaurant a try!