Culinary cage match: Pork

Stomachs, let's get ready to rumble!
Stomachs, let's get ready to rumble!

It would be foolish to compare a $30 entree of “heirloom” pork at a tarted-up Chinese restaurant to a Chinatown-like preparation of “roast pork,” at about $6.99 a pound. Or would it?

One would expect the juicy Kurobuta pork loin served at celebrity restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow’s upscale China Grill to be a perfect example of this breed that’s often considered the “Kobe” of pork. Juicy and not overly lean, flavorful in a way that much of today’s factory-farmed pork is not. Some years ago, when pork producers decided that pork was the “other white meat,” they lauded its lean texture and simple presentation. Unfortunately, a lot of the flavor was also “leaned” out. Well get set for some ’80s nostalgia, as this pork loin here is so lean, white and flavorless, it makes chicken taste like some exotic bird. Yes, it’s a loin, which is naturally lean, but even the mild and abundantly salty rub can not save this admittedly large loin from gummy dryness. And if this is what the chefs and customers of China Grill imagine Kurobuta pork should taste like, then perhaps Mr. & Mrs. Kurobuta should sue for defamation.

At various Asian grocery stores along North Miami Beach’s “Chinatown” corridor, you can find strips of roast pork hanging behind slightly opaque glass, almost glowing in their traditional color-that-doesn’t-exist-in-nature hue of “red.” There may also be, as at PK Oriental Mart, some roast duck, soy chicken and even roast pig (different from roast pork, somehow) that comes with some crunchy skin cracklings. But the strips of pork, with their reassuringly glistening fat running down the length of the pork strip, and collected in a small pan underneath, have that sweet and soy-salty crunch that can only be had in a traditional Chinese restaurant. Of course, when the pork sits around for a while it can become a bit dry, so I recommend eating it in the car on your way home. Just tell the woman behind the counter, who seems to get just a little too much pleasure from hacking the pork with her cleaver, to cut it into bite-size pieces.

China Grill, 404 Washington Ave # 100; Miami Beach; 305-534-2211; PK Oriental Mart, 225 NE 167 St, N. Miami Beach; 305-654-9646

Published: 7/08