Pork pilgrimage

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THE PIG has long been associated with the bounties of the earth: as it feeds on the gifts of the soil, ounces upon ounces of fat are added on to its thick frame, enabling it to be sliced up and shared among family and friends. A trip to Alabang’s The Black Pig, inspired by lechon and the Black Iberian Pig, feels like a pilgrimage to worship on the altar of good livestock.

The chef, Carlos Garcia, a Spaniard who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurant Gauthier Soho in London (among other kitchens) knows his pigs very well. When asked what makes for a good piglet for his cochifrito, he said in no uncertain terms: “The quality of a good pig… is a pig that has been sucking from the booby of the mommy.” A little bit graphic, but the act of suckling and the piglet’s slaughter before actually eating any grain or grass gives the animal a thinner skin, and softer flesh with a hint of butter from the milk it had imbibed in its short life. Poor little piglet, but my, how good it tasted. Cutting through the cochifrito (fried, not roasted piglet) felt like cutting through fine silk. The skin is crisped and singed to give character and flavor to this little baby.

BusinessWorld had this cochifrito with mushroom risotto on the side, and, well, with chicken jus and the juices from the earthy mushrooms, and the al dente texture of the rice grains, it felt like it perfectly captured the feel of a rice field somewhere in Italy, where it was cooked at a break during the harvest.

All animals are offered up to the diner in this restaurant, so the sacred cow was also served on my plate at my pleasure. Beef cheeks were served along with bone marrow, breadcrumbed and sprinkled with mushrooms. The bone marrow absorbed all the smokiness possible from its slow-roasting, and its aggressive but fatty flavor complemented the beef cheeks, which, under a knife, felt like slicing through butter. You can really see the sticky collagen and dissolved connective tissue separate from the chunk of beef, which in turn was so delicate-tasting, and not at all bullishly aggressive as one might expect from its dark-red, almost maroon color.

The meats are mostly imported, except for the baby pig, in a measure for consistency. The menu is very chef-driven, perhaps reflective of Mr. Garcia’s origins in the variable moods and menus of Michelin-starred restaurants. For example, that evening, the cochifrito, usually fried with just garlic and parsely, was baptized with a splash of white wine.

“When we have a dish, how can we improve it all the time?” he said.

“Some people like consistency. I don’t really like consistency. I like changing, evolving.” — Joseph L. Garcia

The Black Pig is located at the Commercenter Bldg., Filinvest Ave. corner E. Asia Dr., Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila.