Chicago appears to be going hog-wild. I’m not sure at what point it became trendy to offer a variety of porkly options, but I’m going to guess Publican was the first Chicago restaurant to gain notoriety during this pork revolution. Next we heard whispers of Mado and subsequently, The Purple Pig. We ventured to The Purple Pig mid-week to meet a couple as intrigued as we were with the third little pig in the city.
Located on the Magnificent Mile we circled Michigan Avenue hoping to catch a glimpse of their sign from our Honda Civic. After about 10 minutes we found their sign, but unfortunately there was no parking or valet. We opted for a garage and made our way into The Purple Pig. It was compact restaurant full of people grabbing a drink or small plates after work. We were seated at a high communal table just right of the bar. Communal dining is usually not my thing, there’s this fear I have… that some stranger is going to watch me battle a pork sausage right off my plate onto the ground or see a wayward noodle escape slowly from the crevice of my mouth… Perhaps it was our good company or the relaxed vibe, but on this occasion a potential dinner mishap didn’t cross my mind.
I love when restaurants offer small plates. Allowing me to sample a little of everything makes me extremely happy, as nothing is worse to me than the commitment of choosing a main course only to be let down by the first bite. We ordered a few items at a time starting with the Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Pecorino Noce & Parmigiano Reggiano, Whipped Feta with Cucumbers, Deviled Egg with Arugula & Caper Berries. The brussel sprouts were fairly unremarkable, except for the amount of salt brought to the mix from the pecorino cheese. I think we’d pass next time on this dish due to my attempts for a low sodium diet. The deep fried deviled egg was fantastic and something we had never had before. The crunchy exterior complimented the creamy interior. We also tried The Mussels with Treviso, Serrano Chiles, Winter Citrus & Gaeta Olives, Octopus with acini di pepe & Swiss Chard, Prawns a la Plancha, Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes, and a Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs smear. I enjoyed everything, including the octopus which I usually avoid due to guilt of eating a creature I find so intelligent and cute. We were also impressed with the tenderness and succulence of the milk braised pork shoulder, it was one of the better shoulders we have eaten to date. The concept of marinating meat in milk seemed strange to me, but on further investigation this is a practice common in Italy.
However, the most memorable dish for me was the roasted bone marrow. Not necessarily because I like bone marrow, in fact, I had never tried it, and since no one else at our table had either, we decided to be adventurous. Trying to find words to describe the gelatinous mass I removed from the bone and smeared on some toasted bread has proven difficult for me. There was no specific taste that overwelmed me, the best I can do is to describe it as buttery in taste, almost ghee-like in texture. The overall experience with the marrow was interesting, but I don’t plan on preferentially seeking out bone marrow again based on taste alone.
We were pleasantly surprised with the reasonably priced, interesting and well executed food. If we find a reason to return, we will definitely choose a taxi as our mode of transportation!
The Purple Pig | 500 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611 | (312) 464-1744 |