A simple menu description of “Suckling Pig” at Cliff’s Edge doesn’t come close to doing Vartan Abgaryan’s dish justice in Silver Lake. The chef’s latest “farm to plate” offering features a prized Devil’s Gulch Ranch pig, takes four days to fabricate and prepare, showcases multiple techniques, and delivers dazzling presentation with big flavor.
I was recently invited to experience Abgaryan’s latest Cliff’s Edge creations, and while he’s progressive across the board with plating and flavor combinations, no dish delivered more culinary thrills than this multi-pronged pork triumph. I’ll spare you most of the nitty-gritty details about how to assemble the plate, but will share some of the big picture highlights.
First, there’s the crepinette, which resembles a loosely packed meatball, but actually consists of head, trotters and butt that are cured with spices like star anise, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and thyme. The trio’s braised in pork stock, alternately shredded and ground, rolled into balls and wrapped with caul fat to hold the quick-braised and slow-poached results together. Braising liquid from the dish’s bellies joins a bath with leeks, mirepoix, bay leaves, peppercorn, thyme and aged sherry vinegar to form a reduced sauce.
The belly gets treated to the same spices, enjoys a slow braise in pork stock, and gets pressed to form firm pork bricks, which may someday become currency. Chef Abgaryan sears the skin to get it good and crispy before roasting the belly in the oven.
Abgaryan removes pork loins from the bone and wraps them with bacon. He cooks loins sous vide, crisps them a la plancha and finishes in the oven. Somehow, the meat remains juicy.
The plate also showcases a stack of braised Savoy cabbage squares, which join tart cabbage quenelles and charred cabbage “ribs” that eat like heartier root vegetables. Buttery sweet potato puree adds nice sweetness, which Abgaryan tempers with cayenne pepper and salt. Chile oil, smoked Aleppo pepper and red ribbon sorrel complete the savory picture.
Cliff’s Edge typically charges $26 for the Suckling Pig, which doesn’t seem sustainable given the amount of labor involved for a single dish on a deep menu. Given that, and considerable the bold results, be sure to seek Vartan Abgaryan’s creation sooner than later.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.