Review: The Salty Pig

A small-plate menu that goes full boar
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  February 1, 2012
3.0 3.0 Stars

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NOW HEAR THIS Pig-ear ragu, with slow-cooked pork worked into an impressive creamy pasta, is one of the Salty Pig's satisfying combinations.

A number of restaurants have failed in this odd multilevel space, stuck in a kind of cultural canyon between the Copley Place mall and the Tent City apartment complex. Despite all kinds of traffic, it didn't work as Moka, Hazel's, Firefly, or Six-Burner. Apparently what it needed was a small-plates, short-menu gastropub like the Salty Pig. Honoring the new name, about a quarter of the new menu consists of cured pig parts and charcuterie. (And given the owners' history with Common Ground, Coda, and Canary Square, you can comprehend their consternation at coming to the cruel but correct concession that they couldn't conceivably cash in on another cutesy name commencing in classic continuity with a letter C, and were consequently compelled to characterize by cuisine.)

Since the real motor is a great lineup of draft craft beers and wines by the glass, another quarter of the menu goes to small rations of "stinky cheese." They also have appetizers, salads, excellent pizzas from a wood-fired oven, a few modest entrées, and a dessert, almost all of it infiltrated by pork. There are vegetarian options, but even the spectacular fried mushrooms ($5) could really use a little sprinkle of smoky bacon, in my opinion.

Waiting for a table, we started at the bar, where they had Blatant IPA ($5.84). How could any hop-head resist? Like everything exciting in beer these days, Blatant is a little stronger and fuller than the old version of India Pale Ale, with the floral-citric aroma of dry hops added at the end of the process, the cutting bitterness on the palate (against some residual malt sweetness) of "wet" hops cooked in at the beginning. Berkshire Brewing Company actually puts coffee in their Dean's Beans porter ($5.14), and this draft is incredibly delicious. The coffee isn't, well, blatant, but it adds a dry aftertaste that really reinforces the idea of a porter. An old friend, Brooklyn Lager ($5.14), delivered the smoother malt flavors I expected. With honest pints in hand — not much fancy glassware here — we got to our table and confronted the odd menu. The whole left side, with the pig parts and "stinky cheese," seems based around the idea of building your own snack board, which comes out as a wood cutting board. With a basic order of mortadellina ($4), you get thin slices, folded and arranged nicely, of the original Bologna sausage: soft, with squares of fat on a pink ground. Trimmings are some bread-and-butter pickles, lightly pickled onions, toasts, a dab of mustard, a bit of fig. Or go to their porchetta ($5), add Hudson red cheese ($8) and a few pickled Basque peppers ($1), and you get a cutting board that looks about the same for $14. Porchetta is slow wood-roasted pork roast, here pink with a slight cure for a kind of pressed-meat effect. Hudson Red, a riper American raclette, was our server's idea of the stinkiest cheese on that night's list, but it's no Liverot. It is a ripe-smelling semi-soft cheese that goes well with beer or wine. The Basque peppers are long, and pickled like pepperoncini, but with more kick.

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