Restaurant Review: The Grumpy Pig

What: Kin gets a porcine-inspired makeover

Where: 65-4 Maoming Bei Lu, near Yan'an Lu. Tel: 6217 3355

Why: You swoon for swine

Gary Wang, Shelter founder and bacon aficionado, has turned the tiny café behind his hip-hop-inspired boutique into a shrine to pork. Almost every dish on the revamped menu includes China’s favourite protein – from the lattice of crispy pork atop the potato salad (RMB 25) to the fatty chunk of pig belly in the relatively light summer rolls (three for RMB 25).

Most of the dishes on the menu do a good job of showcasing the restaurant’s namesake ingredient; the signature grumpy sandwich (RMB 55) managed to incorporate three types of pork on crusty ciabatta. The combination of beer-braised pork, bacon onion compote and bacon vinaigrette demonstrated just how versatile the other white meat can be.

The BLPT (RMB 45) – the P is for pickle – is a Southeast Asian take on the traditional sandwich. Cabbage replaced the lettuce and carrots stood in for tomato, but the bacon really stole the show. Crispy and crunchy, we couldn’t get enough of it, mainly because there wasn’t enough filling to take on the toasted bread. And to our vinegar-loving chagrin, we only got one bite of pickle in the whole sandwich.

A plate of the pork dumplings (RMB 30) served dry with dipping sauces on the side was uninspired. Although the meat was undeniably fresh and hand chopped, the dumplings were missing that little oomph that makes them menu stars. The accompanying dipping sauces – sesame seeds floating in sweet vinegar and crunchy red pepper flakes in oil – did all the heavy lifting.

After one slurp of the intense tonkatsu ramen (RMB 45), the disappointingly standard dumplings were quickly forgotten. The former Kin Café made a name for itself based on this dish, and, to our delight, the new version manages to one up the former bowl. Stocked with fatty cuts of melt-in-your-mouth pork, yielding noodles and crunchy bites of bean sprouts and bamboo shoots, the long-boiled bone broth is so thick with flavour, scientists might need to develop a new state of matter to describe it. And the velvety chunks of slow cooked pork belly were the best bite we had all evening.

We took one detour from the pork-heavy menu with the duck steamed buns (RMB 25 for two). A rich duck confit peeks out of a fluffy mantou, making it arguably the classiest baozi in the city. The buttery duck’s entrenched companions, a mixture of fragrant herbs and crunchy vegetables, added a bite of freshness to the Asian-style sandwich.

The Grumpy Pig proves to be a step up from Kin, which was already pretty darn good to begin with. The interior redesign includes a new brick wall façade to give the restaurant a more established air, with lower lighting and wooden tables to give it more heft – café is no longer the right term for the space. And they’ve retained the best part of Kin by continuing to spin some serious tunes in the background. We’ll be back the next time we feel the need to pig out.

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