While Southern California's Umami Burger opened its first Bay Area location in San Francisco in 2011 and has signed a lease on a second spot in Oakland, it has also developed a new and broader concept called Umamicatessen, which debuted in downtown Los Angeles in March. The showpiece of the Umami Restaurant Group, patrons at Umamicatessen can order not only from the Umami Burger menu, but those of two new concepts: The Cure, a deli that offers noshes like towering pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, and a dizzying array of fried-to-order donuts including one injected with foie gras and San Rafael's Robert Lambert jam; and PIGG, a pork-centric eatery from Chris Cosentino, best known for his San Francisco restaurant Incanto.
A tusked wild bust and a rotating tower of pork containing cured pig parts from Spain, Italy, and the United States are the prominent design features of PIGG. The menu is divided into sections for lard-fried snacks, cured, raw (!), canned, cooked, sandwiches and salad. There is not a single item on it that does not contain pork, and true to Cosentino's waste-not, want-not form, you'll find liberal use of brains, spleens, ears, fat, and skin. Most of the items fall within a price range of $3-18, but there are a few specials, including an "around the world in eight hams" tasting for $75.
Cosentino's other project Boccalone appears briefly on the menu in raw form, literally -- a plate of raw Boccalone Iberico Lardo is served with seasonal fruit. Surprisingly absent is Boccalone's popular spicy spreadable salame called Nduja, but we have no problem with that remaining local.
Being the dainty eaters that we are, we lingered in the fried snacks section on our visit, taking in a cone of crispy pig ears with parsley and lemon and a bowl of PIGG Style Fries topped with pickled peppers and ham puree; both were meant to be dipped or doused in brainaise, a concoction that Cosentino trotted out two summers ago on the streets of San Francisco when cooking on "Le Gut Truc" for a filming of Andrew Zimmern's TV show Bizarre Foods. Because that wasn't enough pork, a can of whipped lardo (back fat) and butter spread on crisp bread seemed in order.
Those who aren't used to eating offal or other random parts of the pig have a mental hurdle to leap over for many of these items, to be sure. But, as at Incanto, Cosentino puts flavor over shock value on his thrill ride.
So if work or life brings you south to Los Angeles, you'll know where to find your tasty salted pig parts.