While the precise origin of General Tso’s chicken remains sketchy, the Cannibal (113 East 29th Street; 212-686-5480) has discovered a surefire way to up the ante on the Chinese-American staple dish: Sub out the poultry for half a hog’s roasted head. The $85 dish takes nearly 45 minutes to prepare, and arrives in a cast-iron cooking pan with the pig’s profile literally gazing into the void (its eye remains in the socket).
The pork, heightened with a house-made chile-pepper glaze, is joined by a broccoli rabe, fried shallot–studded side salad. A half-dozen thin flour pancakes provide a burrito-like delivery mechanism. Unctuous flavor of coarse tongue, tender jowl meat, and crunchy ear cartilage contrast in a textural odyssey. But the true adventure comes from scavenging the nooks and crannies of the skull in search of hidden caches of carnivorous delight. Cut through the sweet and spice of the sauce with any hop-forward I.P.A. from Cannibal’s exhaustive selection of craft beers on tap or in bottle.
Although the menu claims it’s for two, the pig’s head easily provides enough meat to satisfy four grown humans. The squeamish need not apply. If you can’t look an animal in the eye while you’re eating it, consider vegetarianism. To the true believer, however, this is more than a meal. It’s an experience.
Fork in the Road is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.
Here’s our countdown up to now:
#93: Almayass’s Mante