[all photos by Conor Rose]
Tucked all the way up in Hudson Heights is a restaurant that feels like a secret, but we consider you a really good friend, and it’s just too good to not let the secret out. Opened in 2015, The Pandering Pig sits on a quiet street in a neighborhood at the very top of Manhattan – an area so far off the beaten path for us, we felt like we could have been in another city. The restaurant feels calm and homey, ideal for a date night, and far more intimate than many of the restaurants downtown, with some plush seating, wooden tables, and a tiny bar in the back. Wine Director Senator O’Brien helms the bar and front of house, while his wife Nicole directs the kitchen as the Executive Chef. Described as “FreNoCal” (French Northern Californian), Nicole drives the menu based heavily on French dishes with Sonoma influences, and Senator follows suit with a beverage menu to match.
The menu has an array of deep flavors and quality ingredients, with seasonal items rotating through the lineup. The staff is eager to recommend dishes, and we’re just as eager to recommend the recommendations. We tried the fig and olive tapenade, sweet and tangy, heaped over fresh discs of pillowy, creamy goat cheese and served with crusty bread, as well as the roasted beet salad served over greens, sprinkled with toasted walnuts and tossed in lemon cumin vinaigrette. The specials are not a thing to miss – we couldn’t turn down the burrata special paired with apples and toast. All the starters were simple, light, and clearly made with the most fresh ingredients.
The Poulet de Sonoma is the Pandering Pig’s signature dish, a plate of organic chicken marinated in herbs de Provence, with olives and capers, and a tinge of sweetness lent by dried peaches and blueberries, all served over fluffy braised rice with roasted asparagus. Another highly recommended dish was the beef short rib bourguignon served over parmesan garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed mushrooms and carrots. The incredibly tender meat was cooked in red wine and a secret spice mixture – hearty, comforting, and literally falling off the bone at certain points.
The drinks menu is curated carefully with a few quirky, unique choices – just ask Senator if you’re looking for anything in particular. He recommended something new to me – a light and lovely gray rose (2016 Chateau Grande Boise from Provence) and we also tried their very own Pandering Pig Pilsner. We ended up being way too full for dessert, though the regularly rotating dessert offerings (two different tarts) looked intriguing.
Though out of the way for most of us, The Pandering Pig is a true reward for those willing to make the trek, and well worth the trip on the A train, especially while the neighborhood still feels like an undiscovered gem.
You can visit The Pandering Pig at 209 Pinehurst Avenue in Manhattan.
This meal was provided by The Pandering Pig, however all opinions are our own.