Eastern Standard’s frisée aux lardons

Setting a new standard
By KENJI ALT  |  August 29, 2007

True to its moniker, every dish on the menu at Eastern Standard is a standard, nearly to the point of cliché. Where ES really excels, however, is in its almost flawless execution. From its perfectly mixed, seasoned, and cured house-made charcuterie ($12) to ultra-crisp salt-cod fritters ($10) that genuinely melt in your mouth, to the juiciest fresh-ground burgers in Boston ($12), each dish here epitomizes a classic. And the archetypical French bistro salad, frisée aux lardons ($11), is no exception.

Working from the top down, the salad starts off with a pair of poached farm eggs. You have to wonder how the chef managed to get them on top of the salad without breaking them, because the slightest touch of a fork pierces the barely-set whites and creates a lava flow of golden yolk that oozes over the thick-cut and slightly chewy lardons underneath (think bacon and eggs, French style). Cooking cured pork belly into lardons provides lots of leftover rich, rendered pork fat. What to do with it? Make a dressing, of course. Crunchy toasted hazelnuts accent a vinaigrette made with Banyuls vinegar — a sweeter, tarter cousin of typical wine vinegar that balances out the richness of the fat. Advice: use a forkful of the yellow frisée (the bitter green leaves have been thoughtfully removed for you in the kitchen) to mix everything together — egg yolk, vinegar, hazelnuts, and pork fat — into one rich, salty, sweet, crunchy, and tart bite.

As a bonus, during most of the week, this dish is accompanied by veal sweetbreads cut into bite-sized pieces, the crispy golden-brown nuggets hiding a rich and creamy interior that contrasts nicely with the salad. Come during Sunday brunch and pay $1 more for an extra treat: tender pieces of shredded duck-leg confit and buttery brioche croutons replace the sweetbreads, transforming the dish into a no-apologies entrée.

Available for $11 at Eastern Standard, 528 Comm Ave, in Boston. Call 617.532.9100.

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