Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breaking my own rule at Craigie on Main

Going out on a Friday night is a bit of an ordeal for us, since we seem to be incapable of planning in advance. The husband wanted to go out for dinner but had no suggestions - it wasn't until I met him at 6:30 that we decided to go to Craigie on Main since we were down the street and hadn't been in a long time. It's not a good idea showing up at Craigie on a Friday night just shy of 7 without a reservation because it means there's a wait of indeterminable length. It's worth it, and luckily it was only a 40 minute wait to get a seat at the bar.

We hadn't been back to Craigie since they merged their main dining room and bar menus a few months ago, so it was exciting to be able to order off the full menu. The downside is that the main dining room menu is expensive in comparison to what they used to offer at the bar, with most entrees well over $30. So we were contemplating trying an entree for two at $60 total, with the choice of either their famous roast chicken or a roasted pig head.

Either sounded good, though I was leaning towards roast pig - I needed a fix after what we had in Puerto Rico. Since the husband was more inclined towards the chicken, I decided to enlist the opinion of our bartender, a straight-out-of-the-70's-cop-movie gentleman by the name of Ted or Tad. He looked so hipster it hurt. Anyhow, he recommended the pig's head since it was delicious roast pig with lots of fattiness, but served Peking duck style with pancakes, hoisin sauce, and a pumpkin sambal which essentially was a bright pickled dish.

So we ordered the pig, got ourselves another round of drinks, and waited....and waited...and waited some more. The place was absolutely hopping - I would have liked to have asked Ted/Tad what drinks he was making since he was using liquids of all sorts out of dropper bottles (the one closest to me was labelled Tiki), smacking ice cubes before dropping them in drinks, and for one popular drink, lighting an orange peel on fire before rubbing the peel on the rim of the cocktail glass, but the guy was moving constantly, mixing drinks while taking food orders from the crowd eating at the bar. At least we had an incredible grilled Spanish octopus, which was tender and smokey and nothing like the pulpo we ate when we were in Madrid - that one was insufficiently boiled so that it was like chewing on a rubber tire.

But it was close to an hour wait before finally, this baby appeared before us:
I wanted to name our half head - doesn't it look like a Wilbur to you?
The head was so spectacular a sight that I had to take a picture, which I hate to do unless it's worthwhile. This was definitely worthwhile. How many times does half a head arrive at your table? It's a good thing it was just half a head (we had the left side of the face, if anyone cares) because it was a big hunk of meat. The chefs had scored the skin so it was easier to get in to, but otherwise it was a butcher it yourself kind of meal. The skin was the well seasoned crispiness that I crave, followed underneath by a generous layer of pure fat hiding the moist meat. We ate half of it - the meat is so rich that it's hard to eat a lot of it. The waitress mentioned that the eyeball was still in (though I think it's eyelid was closed) for the adventurous to try. We brought the remaining amount home, so we have an eyeball to try and a lot of pork bones with which I can make a tasty stock.

The thing that we love about Craigie, other than the food, is the incredible service of the staff. While we were waiting, both the bartender and the host apologized for the wait. We didn't mind, since we could see they were absolutely packed in the restaurant and we had great drinks, but it was a nice gesture that they were checking in with us. It also turns out that the heads can vary greatly in size, which obviously impacts the cooking time. When our meal was about to be served, Ted/Tad was concerned that our drinks were too warm to get the full impact with our food, so he promptly offered refreshed beverages. To top it all off, they comped us our meal drinks because of the wait, without us asking. It's the reason we go back and it's an experience we appreciate since it's hard to find such great service these days.


Jennifer said...

That pork looks perfectly cooked! WILBURRRRRRRRR!

Good Service is really hard to find-sounds like you had a really nice meal!

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