“One Shot” is an occasional series reviewing non-taquerías’ tacos.
The last time I saw my maternal grandfather, a hulk of a man, I was 5 years old. He had walked through the house carrying a lechon—a spit-roasted whole pork—across his shoulders into the backyard and on to the table where the rest of the food for the family feast was arrayed. He gently set down the pig in the center of the table while I stood at the end barely tall enough to look over the top. And in what seemed a continuous motion from the crispy brown animal to his placing his leathered hands under my arms, lifting me onto the table and sitting me crossed-legged face-to-face with our meal. No sooner had he said, “You’re first, Joseito,” than I had clasped the face of the pig behind the cheeks and yanked the whole thing off. In one piece. It was glorious. I gnawed on the ears and tried to pull the snout, a few singed bristles sprouting from it off the rest of the rough, salty skin. The cloudy white pad of fat on the backside of the face brushed my lips and chin. I loved that day.
When dinner plans were recently thrown for a loop and a friend mentioned the crispy pig’s head at John Tesar’s Knife steakhouse, I relived that day in an instant and said, “Yes.”
We entered without reservations at about 5:30. The lounge was filling up and soon enough to dining room would do the same as customers were led to tables by hostesses and servers wearing the classic white jackets typical of the waiters of steakhouses from long ago. While there were elements of classic meat palaces, the lines were clean and modern with plenty of wood.
The meal began with crudité of vegetables—celery, purple carrots, cucumber—standing in a trough of ice with an old-school green goddess dressing. They were fresh, crunchy and light, elements we wouldn’t encounter until the end of our time at Knife. Next we got the salsa verde fries with a chile’s moderate heat. When the crispy half of a pig’s head arrived, it was presented whole for a photo op then carried back to the kitchen for chopping for easier eating in the corn and flour tortillas accompanying the meat. Only the flour tortillas, small, doughy and losing pliability quickly—in other words enjoy the tacos but not at a leisurely pace—are made in-house. The pork itself, fatty with luscious meat and plenty of crunch from the skin had a richness that after four or five servings rests in your stomach like an old man napping in a hammock. Pretty damn fantastic and more than two people could put away in one sitting. Better for a party of five to make the pig’s head a meal. The unfinished pork was whisked away for packing into a to-go container and a platter of Lilliputian desserts, a minty macaroon among them, took its place. We popped the sugary palate cleansers into our mouths, grabbed the leftover pork and off we went.
Next time, I’ll try the steak.Knife Modern Steak 5680 N. Central Expy. Dallas, TX 75206 214-443-9339