If you’re the type that prescribes to the “everything’s better with bacon” mantra, have we got a restaurant for you.
Launched on a corner of Williamsburg’s Grand Street last week, Belly zealously celebrates any and all things pork, with a nine-course, $45, exclusively bacon-based tasting menu.
The brainchild of advertising executive Philip Cho, and marketing specialist Anna Lee, the eatery expands on porcine-centric dinner parties they used to throw for their friends, with plush planks of pork belly (otherwise known as Korean bacon), taking center stage. And while the rest of the city giddily touts the transformative properties of vegetables, chef Brian Crawford (the Todd English Food Hall, W Hotel Downtown NYC), has successfully managed to push the boundaries of meat, by exploring different textures, cuts and preparations.
Offered at either the 10-seat bar or communal table during dinner, the unusual omakase kicks off with a crostini of housemade creamy kimchi butter, topped with a fragile bacon crisp—the electric orange, fermented pepper spread proving a kissing cousin of pimento cheese. And flags of cured, fat-rimmed, thinly shaved “carpaccio” come next—shrouds of shaved parmesan, sea salt and truffle oil helping to assert them as a convincing stand-in for beef.
In a spin on sushi, rice is bundled in strips of pork belly, torched tableside and anointed with chili oil, while a substantial salad course involves lettuces tossed in miso walnut dressing, sporting bundles of triple-cooked pork jowl (boiled, fried and grilled) on top.
The creamy kimchi butter appears again, as a carbonara-rich, multi-purpose sauce for pasta (belatingly catapulting the product to our restaurants-gone-retail wish list). And that brief flirtation with Italy is followed by a tip of the hat to America, via a steakhouse-worthy cube of gochujang-glazed belly—albeit bearing sides of cabbage kimchi and quick pickles, rather than potatoes and creamed spinach.
Eastern Europe is honored by bacon schnitzel—a cutlet of panko breaded belly on a landing pad of yellow mustard—but the progression eventually plants itself firmly back in Korea, thanks to a pork belly-fueled play on bibimbap, a bowl of steamed rice enriched with soy sauce, white kimchi, eggplant and egg.
And since bacon has found its way into desserts for years, the Belly team ups the ante on savory applications, lashing a hot from the fryer donut in swaths of piquant kimchi icing, and mounting it in puddles of smoky bacon fat cream.
For diners lacking an extreme appetite for pig dishes, note that a truncated, 5-course tasting is available during lunch, along with various a la carte items throughout the day— think a belly sandwich on Balthazar bread, a wrap padded with salt and pepper jowl, and glass noodles crowned with pancetta-style jowl and pickled cucumber (needless to say, you should also expect the ultimate bacon egg and cheese, when a breakfast menu debuts later this summer).
And though pork remains their raison d’etre, the crew fully intends to widen their customer base by loosening their interpretation of belly—to eventually include tuna, salmon or even oysters.
Because whether your tastes run to fish, flesh or fowl, we all can agree that everything’s better with belly.
219 Grand St., (347) 704-0215, Williamsburg