Pork bellies are the cupcakes of the savory world.
ELV wishes he had said that, but the credit goes to Salty Seattle’s Linda Miller Nicholson.
Salty, sexy and saucy wench that she his, Nicholson aptly eviscerated this once-ignored, now ubiquitous (nay, shall we say overused/overwrought?) ingredient. She slammed it (or damned it with faint praise, if that’s how you see it) because chefs the globe over can’t wait to take this blank slate, gussy it up, and charge an arm and a leg for something they used to throw away.
So tired are we of chefs and bloggers obsessing over this boring piece of uncured bacon that we almost waved it off when Top of the World’s Executive Chef Claude Gaty presented one to us a thousand feet off the ground last Wednesday night. But we’re glad we didn’t.
We’re glad we didn’t because what he presented to us wasn’t the usual fat-drenched belly-bomb. Instead, what appeared was a cube of Kurobuta pig stomach, properly rendered of most of Porky’s adipose, roasted and topped with an Asian “chimichurri” while surrounded by an orange gastrique. (ELV wishes chefs would call “gastriques” what they really are: reduced, thickened, sticky sauces, but “gastrique,” while boastful, also has the benefit of brevity.)
Gaty’s final touch is to place the meat atop a rectangle of compressed arborio rice laced with chopped cilantro and “Aji Amarillo and lime powder.” The effect is a left-right-left combination of spices that enhance the sweet, tender pork without overwhelming it. Each bite is highly-spiced without being too spicy, and somehow, none of these half-dozen accents detract from the dish’s inherent richness (instead, they just give it some nice, sharp edges). It is a flavor feat that signals a real pro at work in the kitchen.
The whole enchilada costs only $14, and ELV beckons you to find a better balanced belly beauty anywhere on or beyond the boulevard.
Just thought you’d like to know.
TOP OF THE WORLD
In (as in: way above) the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino
2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89104