Pork Belly Appetizer at PFW in Ottawa’s Byward Market
The Pork Belly Appetizer at the Play, Food & Wine Restaurant in Ottawa was described on the menu as being accompanied by Kimchi, Sweet Potato and Candied Pecan. Generally, I have always enjoyed the dishes I have been served at this establishment (their Grilled Haloumi immediately comes to mind), but this Pork Belly preparation needed a little tweaking.
To break this dish down, the Sweet Potato was a smear of puree acting as a base, while the Kimchi was arranged in three discreet islands, against which a small piece of Pork Belly was placed. The Candied Pecan was crushed quite finely and scattered overall as a sort of dusting, with concentrations around the Kimchi and Pork Belly mounds.
The smear of pureed Sweet Potato worked quite nicely in terms of visual appeal but, beyond that, it was so bland as to be effectively tasteless. This is only to be expected for this vegetable in such small amounts but, ultimately, it added nothing to the dish in terms of flavor or texture.
The Kimchi was Cabbage based, but it wasn’t anything like the sort of Basic Cabbage Kimchi generally served with Korean meals. The Cabbage was paired with Chives and Red Chili Flakes, but the form was clearly a vinegared ‘quick-pickle’ rather than being fermented. It was very nice though, and the acidity added a pleasant tart counterpoint to the rich fattiness of the Pork.
The Candied Pecan was pleasant enough in terms of taste and added texture, but I am really not sure why they were described as ‘candied’. They rather seemed to be just crushed ordinary pecans without any additional sweetness and I was left wondering if the kitchen had possible run out of the candied variety and improvised with the plain.
As for the Pork Belly, this was a bit of a let down. Quite honestly, it really just tasted like the sort of pan-fried Pork Belly rashers I often have with breakfast and there was really nothing special about it. It could have been cut just a little bit thinner, and it would definitely have benefitted from a glaze of some sort, or even a little seasoning. As it was, it diminished this dish from almost perfect to something a bit less.