More than any other restaurant in town, Hakata TonTon puts pig’s feet through their paces. This month-old Japanese place does trotters, or tonsoku, every which way—in stews and salads and pastas and dumplings and gratins and more. But Chowhounds find that less can be more. A strong early favorite is one of the simplest preparations: tonsoku grilled with salt. Deeply flavored, sheathed in lovely crunchy skin, and served with an austere yet amazing accompaniment of citrus-infused salt. “Pig’s feet heaven!” exults misschopsticks.
In contrast, sugar and spice sing out in a robust Korean-influenced hot pot where pig’s feet swim in a roiling broth spiked with kochujang (chile bean paste). As it cooks down, fat and skin and other piggy oddments melt into a thickening sea of porkiness, observes xigua. Other winners are tonsoku consommé—thick, intense, and unexpectedly refined, its richness cut by a touch of vinegar—and tonsoku nimono with sweet potato, a simple boiled dish that delivers pure homey comfort.
Tonsoku shumai are large and subtly flavored, benefiting from a dip in the ponzu sauce that comes with them. They may be most notable for their appearance, which is an eye-grabber: a spear of toenail curving out of each dumpling. This may not be everyone’s idea of an appetizing bite, misschopsticks notes. Which raises the question: Can a restaurant with such an unusual focus gain a toehold in Manhattan? Seeing how pork belly has become a menu staple, xigua figures, “pork trotters may not be as scary sounding as people think. Wish them luck.”
Hakata TonTon [West Village]
61 Grove Street (between Bleecker Street and Seventh Avenue S.), Manhattan
Board Link: Hakata TonTon