The Pig & Kraut, Brasserie St. James. San Francisco, California.
I have real respect for a dish that’s so massive and imposing in its dimensions that the photographer struggles to get a shot that does it justice. Due to low light conditions and an irresistible urge to start eating, I failed. The above will have to do.
No regrets. Brasserie St. James’ pork knuckle is something that has to be lived anyway—felt, picked up, pulled on, stabbed at, and of course eaten—not simply seen. Crispy and braised, its landscape is one of the most varied of meats I’ve ever experienced. Tender pulled pork here, the chewy goodness of pork rind there, the flavor concentrated skin surrounding it, steaming pockets of fat throughout, and that moistness you only get with meat cooked close to the bone. Topped with a stone-ground mustard and parsley and served with bacon apple kraut and mashed potatoes, the dish does one of the best jobs I’ve seen of the Germanic meat and potatoes model outside of central Europe.
Flavor: 5 / 5. The perfect meat-eating experience if you like your meat more on the wild side—big, bone-in, unwieldy, and a little confusing (“Where do I start?”) This pork knuckle is tasty, well-textured, nicely sauced, and accompanied by sides that are delicious in their own right.
Fun: 2.5 / 5. Anything dish looks as big as your head is bound to be fun. And digging into a boney dish is always more interactive than a straight cut of something.
Funkiness: 2.5 / 5. One of the more offbeat varieties of pork out there—the pig knuckle (or ham hock) is roughly the equivalent of the human thigh. Its boney protrusion and general shape makes it seem slightly more identifiable (and thus a little more “eww”-inducing) than your typical pork cut, but not by a whole lot.