Bacon exists in a category of its own. Like that classic Onion headline claiming Meryl Streep can’t be tried by a jury because she has no peers, bacon is in a world unto itself. Sure, pork dumpling, pork chops and pulled pork are all delicious, but bacon is…. Bacon. There’s a reason “add bacon” is such a popular menu addition.
Which is why, when we heard about a new restaurant in NYC offering a bacon tasting menu, we weren't so much surprised as surprised to realize no one had thought of it sooner. Newly-opened Belly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offers a nine-course omakase-style dinner (literally Japanese for “I’ll leave it up to you”), with each dish offering a different interpretation on cured pork.
Belly’s menu follows many of the rules of classic, Western-style dining where each course is brought individually, starting with bread and small bites, then salad, followed by increasingly heavy meat dishes, but each dish had Asian influences. The bacon itself draws more from traditional Korean methods of cooking bacon, further bridging the East-West meat candy divide.
As soon as the restaurant officially opened, I found myself on a very important mission: to eat as much bacon as I possibly could. You know, for work purposes. So, one Thursday evening, a coworker and I set out to tackle the nine course menu head on.
We started with a bacon-y crostini topped with kimchi butter, followed up by fully-cooked bacon sushi. Each piece of warm, streaky bacon came with a powerful zing of wasabi. Next was bacon carpaccio covered in truffle oil and lots of parmesan. While everything we’d had up until then was good, this was a savory, umami-rich experience that made us sigh with satisfaction. The next course was salad, but topped with a warm slice of (you guessed it) bacon. A pasta course featured a creamy kimchi sauce and homemade noodles was reminiscent of Amatriciana sauce by way of Korea.
At this point in the evening (six courses in), we were getting full — and three full courses remained. Having eaten a light lunch, I was nevertheless beginning to feel the full force of the preceding courses. I did manage to finish off most of the bacon steak course, glazed in a sweet Asian BBQ sauce. The following dish, a schnitzel made with bacon, was my defeat. Breaded and fried, it reminded me of tonkatsu, a Japanese pork cutlet typically served with a sweet-savory plum sauce and shredded cabbage. This was coming to us via Germany, however, and was served with a mustard sauce, making it comparable to the most delicious chicken finger you’ve ever had.
The penultimate dish was a risotto/fried rice mash-up with plenty of chunks of pork shoulder and a runny egg on top for good measure. The heaviest offering, it also came right as we were ready to wave the white flag of defeat. We took a few bites and determined it wouldn’t be too déclassé to have it wrapped up to go. Dessert, a house-made doughnut that also included kimchi and a bacon-y whipped cream, was a final blend of sweet, spicy, and salty.
Afterwards, we staggered into the Williamsburg evening, full of pig fat, but also happy. After all, at $45, the all-bacon menu isn't an every-week sort of event. However, for a one-of-a-kind tasting menu, it’s not outside the realm of possibility, either. When you do the math, each course shakes out to around $5 each. For bacon-lovers in NYC (or those who are just passing through) a meal at Belly is an easy and delicious way to explore all the ways the beloved protein can be cooked, appreciated, and consumed.
Nine courses of bacon later, I wondered if I had reached some kind of bacon saturation point, and if I would ever be hungry again. Then I went to bed, with vision of slow-cooked pork dancing in my head, only to awake the next morning with a sudden urge to eat a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich as soon as possible.