Pig Bleecker takes the second half of its name from its Greenwich Village address and the first from Pig Beach, a beer garden and barbecue stand on the idyllic shores of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. The two places share a chef, several owners, some sauces and recipes, and a fondness for wood smoke. They have pigs in their names for a reason, but one appealing thing about Pig Bleecker is how often it gravitates toward cooking that has nothing to do with barbecued pork.
One recent night, a length of striped bass was half-buried under charred green buds of romanesco broccoli, chopped smoked almonds — not the kind from a can — and spoonfuls of chopped fresh herbs in olive oil. The flavors were clean and strong, the approach direct and Italian. “I could see this at a Batali restaurant,” I wrote in my notes. I didn’t know yet that until about a year ago, the chef, Matt Abdoo, cooked at Mario Batali’s Del Posto.
Pig Bleecker also has broiled oysters, meaty ones that slosh around in their shells with chile oil and melted garlic butter under a cap of flaky brown bread crumbs. Carbone, down the street, serves three styles of baked clams side by side, and I don’t think any of them outdoes these oysters.
In another appetizer, chunks of cod cheeks are quickly fried with country ham that sizzles up as crisp as a potato chip. Both cod and ham are knocked around with chopped pickled peppers and their spicy vinegar. The menu calls this “Rhode Island style cod cheeks.” I grew up in Rhode Island and never saw cod cheeks in any form there. Things were simpler then.But I did see, and eat, fried squid tossed with pickled banana peppers. The last time I encountered it on a menu was at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square. I generally try not to think about what they did to it there, but I couldn’t help recalling it at Pig Bleecker, which gets closer to the taste of the original with fish cheeks than Guy’s did with actual squid.