The hottest dish in New York City right now is … fancy ham?
That’s according to The New York Times, which reported on Thursday that high-end cured meats are ubiquitous at restaurants across the city. Many of the most lauded spots have some sort of ham on their menu, and often those plates are selling for $20 or more.
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“In fine dining, there’s talk about perception of value,” Joshua Pinsky, the chef-owner of Claud, told the Times. “Ingredients you don’t have to do much to—things like uni, caviar, truffles—you buy at the highest quality and put on the plate and let them shine. I think country ham is one of those.”
At Claud, domestic country ham is served with sunchokes and red-eye mayo. At Raf’s in NoHo, you can get jambon de Bayonne with Sardinian carta di musica crackers. Torrisi is serving Benton’s ham with some of the most perfectly executed zeppoles you’ll find anywhere. And there are even restaurants completely devoted to the humble pig, like the Lower East Side’s Pig Bar and Prospect Leffert Gardens’ & Sons Ham Bar.
The top-tier pork product is showing up everywhere in part because diners are now willing to spend more than they may have been before the pandemic—and they want their dinner to come with a show. Watching trained professionals slice up a leg of ham can be like watching a fine performance: For example, Cinco Jotas—which sells legs to restaurants for a little more than $1,000—requires a particular carving technique.
And despite the ham itself being expensive, it can actually be a quite cost-effective addition to a restaurant’s menu. Chefs don’t need to do too much more work to prepare a ham dish for customers, and they can set it at a price in the $30 range.
“I was looking for something sustainable,” said André Hueston Mack, the owner of & Sons.
Diners seem to be responding well to restaurants’ decision to add fancy ham into their rotation. Many chefs told The New York Times that cured-meat plates have been extremely popular, and one restaurant went through four legs of Cinco Jotas in just a few weeks.
Perhaps pork is shedding its reputation as just “the other white meat.”
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