There aren’t many lengths I wouldn’t go to for a good plate of the other white meat. Three-hour traffic jams, rain showers, multiple pending deadlines. Sometimes all on the same night. They all fall by the wayside when you mention the magic words, and those words are El Cerdo. Be warned, pork haters. Look away now.
Salty, pink ribbons of goodness...
43&45 Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 2145 0511
Lunch 12.00pm-2.30pm, dinner 6.30pm-10.30pm (every day except only dinner on Saturdays)
Hefty portions for big eaters, slightly-less-guilty half portions for dieters.
If you're here for a party and you're not into pork, your pickings are pretty slim.
Established in 2005, El Cerdo is the place one goes to for all things porcine. Owner Werner Kuhn and executive chef David Caral really showcase their love for this versatile meat by going to great lengths themselves in their tantalizing menu. Sourcing most of their meat from Europe, it appears in many incarnations by way of cold cut platters, pastas, sausages, and their robust mains section. In fact, it was so pork-filled that one can’t help but sillily expect it to be on their dessert menu as well (it isn’t). I’ve always loved El Cerdo, having been here for my birthday earlier this year. I had their infamous roasted suckling pig then, of which they go through at least 100 a week.
The restaurant itself is dimly lit, with many knick-knacks and artwork of the curly-tailed animal. It is cozy and welcoming, which is probably why everyone from Japanese businessmen to large families to romantic couples are there with wide smiles. I look around the restaurant and hear “Happy Birthday” being sung at another table, the first of many that night. I am told later that their record is 23 birthdays in 2 hours!
In a moment, the complimentary soup arrives. Mushroom soup served in little cups with chunky bits of ham that give it just that little savoury something. The basket of crusty bread with peppers that is on standby throughout the night is tasty, but is unfortunately a touch cold. Dishes from their tapas menu arrive soon after: bombas, pincho moruno and Serrano and Iberico ham. The bombas are mashed potato balls filled with pork and deep fried with a wonderfully crispy crust. The dollop of tomato cream and aioli on top is a tangy tasty touch. Pincho moruno, or grilled pork on skewers, is served with a not-too-spicy oil. Chewy and tender at the same time, the flavor of the meat really shines in this simple offering.
Then it is time for ham. Oh, ham. Sweet, salty, fatty slivers of Serrano and Iberico ham served on tomato bread. The Serrano is a little subtle in taste and texture, having just the right amount of salty kick. The Iberico, my favorite ham, is literally brilliant, fat glistening under the lights. From the slight bite of the ham to melt-in-the-mouth fat, I would have been happy with just that the entire night.
But oh, there are mains on the way! The marinated pork shoulder steak is my dinner companion’s favorite dish of the night. Served with a chunky mashed potato and mild mustard, it is topped with fried finely julienned leeks, paprika dusting the rim of the plate. Getting a bit of everything in one bite, I see why she loves the dish: the interaction of all the different textures is great, and the steak is grilled just right. Oven roasted Iberico spare ribs is served next with pineapple salsa in roman tomato cups. The marinade melds with the fat as it is roasted, which gives it a sensational crust. The spicy-savoriness of it goes well with the sweet pineapple salsa. Finger bowls are given to us during this course and we happily oblige and dive in, licking our fingers now and then.
A surprise third main comes our way, called callos a la Madrilena. Hearing the name, my heart sinks a little. Tripe stew! I love all sorts of offal, but I usually cannot stomach tripe. This time, however, I brave it for the sake of achieving a gastronomical scout badge. I am pleasantly surprised – the marriage of the stewed tripe, chickpeas, cauliflower sauce and garlic bread crumbs are actually quite tasty. No gripes about the dish, we finish it in no time.
Two desserts arrive after a breather, Werner’s special and churros. The churros are a touch too crusty for my liking, but it is a good vehicle for the melted chocolate sauce it comes with. Werner’s special is outstanding. Raspberry anything gets my heart, and this comprises of their raspberry sorbet (made on the premises), strawberries, mango sauce and chocolate mousse. I dip my spoon in right to the bottom so I can get all the layers and am rewarded with a taste-gasmic end to my meal.
And what a meal it was indeed. Even though I am a bit of a pig (pun intended), I am glad that they gave us half-servings, something that is not available at many restaurants. That way, I could get as much of a variety as possible, and experience just how much these folks really love their pork. The restaurant manager Max Chong tells us of their determination to keep their menu pork-centric.
The slight Spanish flair is by influence of their name, though it is by no means a Spanish restaurant. The German sausages themselves are an entire menu section of their own, and I make a note to try them out the next time I’m here. Grunting, I waddle my way out of the restaurant into the cold night and confer with my dinner companion about returning for my birthday again next year. Happening to glance at a mirror on the way out, I see my stuffed belly and smile. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
Price range: RM30 upwards for mains. Lunch sets start at RM44 with an RM25 appetizer spread.
Opening hours: Lunch 12.00pm-2.30pm, dinner 6.30pm-10.30pm (every day except only dinner on Saturdays)