Nestled on a street corner in the West Village, the much-hyped restaurant appeared as a snug doorway that barely squeezed more than one person through. A two-hour wait for a table at The Spotted Pig is a glowing testimonial.The dining room, packed at seven o’clock, glowed a dim red and breathed an intimate coziness. Waiters paraded plates of food that looked straight from the pages of Bon Appetit through the maze of bar stools and people. A narrow staircase lead to a second level which housed what appeared to be just a few more tables and mismatched stools.
I passed the time deep in a long conversation with my cousin Emily. We forgot we were hungry until the food appeared in front of us. Just as I was about to tuck into my black bass, Emily needed to prove a point.
“This is weird, but hold this burger,” she said. This was not weird at all for either of us. It may have been weird for anyone watching.
I clutched the burger. The top bun was detailed with grill marks. I flipped my hand over, taking my time. Knowing full well a gust of wind could come through the nearby open window at any moment and render my fish room temperature. I tenderly passed the burger back to her hand.
Emily took a bite. Made me take it right back again, like I had never tasted a burger before. But I trusted her.
The meat was a bright pink medium rare. Not lean beef. The kind that melts in your mouth and tastes better than bacon. A dot of pungent roquefort cheese in the middle.
“I’m going to eat the whole thing,” she said.
That’s so me, I thought. To announce the marathon.
“Me too,” I replied, stealing her fries.
The bass (finally) had delicate crispy skin and was finished just past medium-rare, barely opaque and still warm. It was flaky yet moist, similar in texture to perfectly roasted dark meat from a duck or chicken. The plate featured almost-raw asparagus and some kind of bitter, wilted purple greens – radicchio? The buttery peas and green puree made everything silky and rich. Eating this dish was like reading a book – it had layers and characters.
We knew that if we saw the dessert menu, it would be all over. My philosophy is, if you’re going to deny yourself, don’t start with dessert. A little lemon-lime tart with thick and tangy whipped cream only makes everything better.