Health Check: Black Pig (Cleveland, OH)

(New Update: Black Pig closed permanently in April 2021, with the chef moving back to New England. I look forward to his next endeavor.)

Way back in 2013, I did a review of a relatively new addition to the Ohio City dining scene: Black Pig, which had been newly opened by chef Mike Nowak (who had previously been executive chef at several other Ohio City hot spots, including Bar Cento and Market Garden. Since that visit, a lot has changed with Black Pig. For starters, they’ve moved, from their relatively cozy location on W 25th to a substantially larger location on Bridge Ave that used to hold the revered Parker’s restaurant (meanwhile, their old location was taken over by neighbor Nano Brew, providing them a much-needed increase in space). With the move, they ended up retooling the menu a little bit; the focus is still definitely on “New American Cuisine” using locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, particularly focusing on Ohio’s beef and pork products, but shifting a bit more towards a more regular menu; my two previous Black Pig visits had custom chef’s tastings, and while they’ve still got an impressive “Tasting Menu”, it’s generally now just a prix fixe menu with periodic seasonal updates. And with the substantially enlarged space, Black Pig does a lot more “Private Dining” events than they used to as well. But I continue to hear some really good word of mouth about Black Pig, so I figured that ending this year’s Death March there would be a great opportunity to check in on how they are doing.

As an entire table of rather hungry eaters, after ordering a few charcuterie plates to start us off, everyone at the table opted for the current Chef’s Tasting Menu offering, although many people opted for different options for the main entree. But we all started off the with same salad, a mixed green salad with orange, jicama, and quinoa. Myself, I rather liked this salad, while slightly on the salty side, it was a nice combination of slightly bitter greens, crunchy jicama, and a lightly toasted quinoa that, when combined with the slightly higher salt level combined to give it an almost smoky taste, much like a higher-quality version of those fake bacon bits you still sometimes see on discount salad bars. But a few people at the table didn’t care for that combination.

But things picked up immediately with the next course. About a quarter of the table opted for the pork tenderloin, which was plated as a combination of pork glazed in a coffee sauce, a few mounds of broccoli Salad, and some cheddar gnocchi with bacon. This conceptually worked rather well: the pork was tender and perfectly cooked, the gnocchi firm on the exterior but tender inside, and both the slightly bitter coffee sauce and the slightly tangy broccoli salad offset the other flavors nicely. This was a thoroughly enjoyable pork dish highlighting the tenderloin.

But about half of the table opted for another entree: the pork collar. For those that got it (including Carol), this was a braised pork collar, served up with rosemary Brussel sprouts, poached apple bits, and covered with a softer orange glaze and toasted hazelnuts. This was definitely the the star of the evening, with a very tender, starting to fall apart pork that was just oozing in pork flavor, some nice slightly crunchy sprouts and apple bits, and a sweeter sauce that just tied it all together, and it was a pretty substantial portion to boot. I’d definitely order this if I was returning.

Dessert was also pleasing: a chocolate hazelnut tart served up with some toasted coconut and some glazed hazelnuts, this was just the right combination of sweet, chocolate, salty, and nuts to make a pleasant, well-balanced finish to the meal. I’d definitely consider this again for dinner as well.

Overall, I have to say, everyone in our party was happy with Black Pig. Everything we had off of the Chef’s tasting menu was quite good, and one particular item, the pork collar, was universally loved by everyone at the table that had it. Black Pig also handled a large party flawlessly and efficiently, and we all agreed that compared to a lot of the other area restaurants, the Tasting Menu was also a quite affordable dinner as well, especially for the overall quality. Black Pig remains one of my top Cleveland recommendations.

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