When a pork chop (or a pork loin, for that matter) is properly cooked, there’s not too many more things more satisfying. I’ve been rolling around (figuratively) on a pork chop run, and I find the pork chop at Annabelle’s to be very tasty and very satisfying. It’s nicely grilled with the familiar char-diamond argyle pattern, and slices open to a perfectly pale rose pink interior with lots of natural juices inside from proper rest.
Glazed baby carrots add curious color and crunch, and a mound of organic mushroom rice provides the starch to sop up the fantastic bourbon jus. And Executive Chef Larry Piaskowy is not shy about jus. He can pour out some mean (I mean absolutely delicious) jus for his meat dishes, and works the natural flavors together wonderfully. His pork chop is another great dish to eat at Annabelle’s.
Grilled Pork Chop – Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)
The Grade: Excellent (4 out of 5)
The Damage: $25
The Tip: Annabelle’s offers a three-course, prix fixe menu for $33.
Berkshire pigs, called Kurobuta in Japan, are big black hogs that make phenomenal pork chops, bacon, and other meaty treats. They’re thought to be the oldest breed of pig from Britain. Kurobuta pigs have been finding their way through fine American restaurants, thankfully, to be served up by masterful chefs.
The House in SF’s North Beach District serves up one of the best pork chops I’ve had in 2009, and a likely meatmeister award-winning dish for this year.
Awesome Kurobuta Pork Chop – The House, SF
First of all, the dish is beautiful and vibrant with a jet-black and orange swirl, plus bright green, purple, yellow and white on the plate. The purple and yellow potato crisps extend up from the back of the chop like a manic koi tail; this makes the thick body of the prok chop look like a prehistoric sea-beast plunging into the inky tar pits. The pomegranate-current sauce really resembles tar pits, or a runaway oil slick, its purpleness darker than night. Slicing through the pork chop is like slicing through time. Each morsel is otherworldly.
Kurobuta pork chop (detail), The House – SF
The pork chop is perfectly grilled and thankfully, the pomegranate-curry sauce is not sweet. The mashed-up potatoes propping up the chop are that right mix of slightly chunky but smooth. The potatoes and a couple asparagus spears cut the richness of the dish well, and the crispy purple potato sliver offers another textural contrast. A mix of New American and Asian flavors in perfect balance, the Kurobuta pork chop is terrific.
THE GRADE: Awesome (highest grade)
THE DAMAGE: $21
1230 Grant Ave (at Broadway St)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Within a week, I had two of the best pork dishes of the year. And one of my favorite pork dishes from 2009 is the grilled pork chop from Monk’s Kettle, a gastro-pub in San Francisco’s Mission District.
The pork chop at Monk’s Kettle is simply outstanding. It’s double-cut thick with nice, tire-burn grill marks, and the perfect sunrise pink interior that’s tender, juicy, and hard to come up for air for after bite one. The chop (Coleman Natural Hampshire) has been brined in apple cider with brown sugar (and the necessary bay leaf)to really heighten the flavors. Did I say juicy?
The mustard sauce that swaddles the pork chop like a pale yellow superhero cape is utterly fantastic. It’s a creamy Bechamel sauce with stone ground mustard, a sort of plate-licking temptation that disappears instantly like a demon. You’ll not see much sauce remaining when your server collects your UFO-shaped dish.
The sides here are also great, making this dish one of my favorite pork dishes of 2009. And there’s enough on this plate to feed a substantially hungry person, either once or twice.
The orb-like accompanying side that appears to be a polenta imposter is actually a cheddar-scallion potato cake. Crunchy exterior, great surprise inside. So good I want it for breakfast. Chef Kevin Kroger uses house-cured bacon, not as just a tiny flavoring or afterthought to bolster the Brussel sprouts, but as another serious element. I think it’s actually the Fifth Element on this plate. I’m keen on bacon & Brussel sprouts, and this pairing favors Monk’s fine, crispy, maple-smoked bacon. The interplay between the elements in this dish is wonderful.
The Spot: Monk’s Kettle
Aside from simply the pork chop, Monk’s Kettle is one of the best places in San Francisco Bay Area to sample an astounding array of beers. Their 24 draught taps change 3 to 5 times weekly. The beer menu itself is 6 legal-sized pages listing (and explaining) a worldwide variety of familiars and odds, with prices that range from your low-budge suds (PBR and such) to party-like-a-rock-star froth (including champenoise-style beers that set you back between $45 and $60 for 12 oz.). The staff is authentically friendly, very knowledgeable about the beers they have, and enjoy helping folks match their flavor palette or dare into new territory. If you’re no pork chopper, just go by for a beer sometime.
The Grade: Awesome / Phenomenal (my highest grade)
Fresca, a Peruvian restaurant with two locations in San Francisco, is renowned for an amazing array of ceviche. So Fresca may not be top of mind when someone’s considering a great meat dish in the Bay Area. But make no mistake, Fresca makes one of the best pork dishes in San Francisco.
The pork chop at Fresca is stellar. It’s a nominee for Meatmeister’s Top Pork Dishes of 2009.
The pork chop itself is a generous portion (sometimes called a double-cut for its thickness), and is perfectly pale pink and juicy inside. The grilling on the chop is superb. The pork chop vogues across a muddy-river toned flatbed of rice and beans (black bean “tacu-tacu”), and some wicked plantains that are slightly crisped, sweet, and tender. Atop the chop is a mango mustard salsa, with some aji honey mustard sauce. Whew; it is one great dish and highly recommended for pork chop fans.
The Grade: Awesome / Phenomenal (my highest grade)
Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop – Town Hall, San Francisco CA
The Dish: Peanut Tasso Crusted Pork Chop
I’m not a huge peanut fan, to be frank. Peanuts are like the chickens of nuts; you might enjoy eating them, but you probably don’t want to know where they’ve been before entering your mouth. But the peanuts reinforcing the crust of this Town Hall version of the pork chop are well suited. They provide sufficient Southern crunch and a mild, earthy undertone to the smokiness of the tasso (a Cajun dish enhancement staple that has a smoky, cayenne-bolstered pork flavor).
So the pork chop itself comes somewhere betwixt medium and medium-rare, the thick cut pork showing just a blush of pink. The soft, juicy interior’s textural contrast to the nutty, crunchy crust is a balanced counterpoint. It’s one of the best pork chops in San Francisco, to be lauded both for its flavor and its originality.
But another reason for this dish’s power is certainly the crafty selection and rendering of the accompaniments: wonderful, subtle, and smart. Town Hall acknowledges familiar and classic pork partners like fruit and winter vegetables, then reinterprets their presence entirely. Rich, dark apple butter swirls around the plate instead of the expected dollop of baked apple compote. A sprinkling of pomegranate , the crunchy, juicy seeds relating directly to both the sweet apple and the crunchy peanut exterior on the chop. The flavor relationships between the ingredients become as a whole deeper, more vibrant and, somehow, altogether correct, like a symphony. Described on the menu: peanut tasso crusted pork chop, butternut squash, apple butter.
The Grade: Excellent
The Damage: $24
The Skinny: Town Hall, 342 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA