Livestock Sgt. Esguerra Review: Pig Tales and Popsicle Crispy PataJuly 1, 2014
Crispy pata may seem like the least interesting dish in the Filipino culinary pantheon- it’s just a piece of deep fried pork, isn’t it?- but this supposedly simple hunk of fatty, glutinous porkiness is one of my favorite things to eat. I have even eaten one whole pata alone (in my defense, I was living abroad, and over-excited to find Filipino food after many months without it). So when I heard about a place with crispy pata so tender that you only needed a Popsicle stick to slice it, my inner piggy needed to go there to see it for myself.
Livestock, owned by a family who’s been in the piggery business since the 70’s, boasts about their crispy pata, and when it comes to the table, you know they’re not playing around. The crispy pata is probably one of the best I’ve had in an incredibly long time. Yes, it is melt-in-your-mouth tender with a contrasting crisp crackling, but it isn’t just about the texture here. Cutting through it exposes the fact that the skin, and the immediate layer of fat underneath, are speckled with whatever herbs and spices were used to marinate the meat. This differentiates it completely from others you’ve tasted, because the pork is so flavorful, creating a juicy, salty mess.
The restaurant highlights the porcine animal throughout their menu, showing off the entire pig, nose to tail. Maybe the way they do can get a little repetitive- fried or roasted is usually the method of cooking here- but it doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious, and it always highlights whatever part of the pig is being used. Splayed knuckles were presented two ways, with a buffalo sauce and a Chinese-style black pepper marinade. Both were a little soggy from being drenched in so much sauce, but they were great nonetheless. Buffalo-style splayed knuckles felt like a moreish, gelatinous cousin of the hot wing, and were wiped out immediately.
Spiced pig tails were another crowd favorite, which had me gnawing at the boniest part of the tail. It had a funk that might not be welcome to some, but the spices were pronounced and unmistakeable. The rest of their menu seems like an unedited mess however, with so many dishes from so many different cuisines, with no clear direction. Four-egg spinach was pretty faultless, but sticking to the pork side of the menu will serve you well.
Livestock, with its bro-y interior and layout, seems destined to be another hangout or bar in the Scout area, catering to late night visitors ordering fatty dishes for pulutan or for appeasing their hangovers. However, it is more than that. It is a humble restaurant, which pays homage to the family business, and shows that pork is in their blood. They know how to cook the stuff, and transform the often ordinary protein into some spectacular dishes.