Only the strong-willed survive this style of eating.
A pig head served on a platter, snout and all, might seem more fit for a medieval feast than a night out with friends in Williamsburg. But this audacious dish at the recently reopened Fatty ’Cue on S. Sixth Street allows feasting diners to indulge their carnivorous side in a mess of smoke, meat, and sweet, sticky sauce.
Pork makes appearances throughout Fatty ’Cue’s menu, as ’Cue bacon ($14), maple glazed pork shoulder ($18), and even pig ear with sea urchin ($9).
But it’s the half pig head ($32, easily serves 4), dry rubbed, brine and smoke roasted, that showcases this restaurant’s porcine ingenuity and takes the idea of “nose-to-tail” eating to a whole new level.
The first thing your server will bring to your table is a bowl filled not with sauce or sides but rather a pile of rubber kitchen gloves, which diners are encouraged to use once the pig head arrives. I like that Fatty ’Cue embraces the eat-with-your hands attitude required for this kind of dining, but I found the gloves a bit alarming, more fit for a hospital than a dining room. If I’m going whole hog, a bit of pork grease on my fingers is just fine.
Whether you choose to don the gloves or not, the half pig head arrives steaming hot, accompanied by sliced pickles, a scallion salad, a stellar, smoky sauce of fish sauce and palm sugar, and a pile of pale white bao, the steamed buns commonly found in China. Which part or parts of the head you choose to eat are up to you. Everything from jowls (a favorite), to eyes, brain, and ears are up for grabs and perfectly good fodder for a true pork adventurist. The meat is smoky, fatty in many parts and laced with the sticky sauce, and best eaten in bits accompanied by small cracklings of the pork skin.
Along with the sauce and pickles, the various cuts of meat make for some of the best bao in Brooklyn. And with this dish, you can take credit for having a hand in it. Because this time, quite literally, you did.
Fatty ’Cue [91 S. Sixth St. between Berry Street and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 599–3090, www.fattycue.com].
Will Levitt is a Brooklyn-based food writer. Follow him on Twitter @UnderEggWill