Review: Copper Pig
Opened just a year ago (October 2015), Copper Pig has both ambience and menu going for it. Located in the trendy Southhampton neighborhood near a few other hot spots, the interior is an appealing blend of exposed brick and dark wood.
The place is owned by Nhat Nguyen, which explains the Asian avors, but Latin influences are everywhere, too, thanks, in part, to a chef from Peru. You’ll find dishes like whole fried snapper with chili-tamarind sauce alongside arepas and sweet plaintain tart. This montage of cuisines yields an intriguing selection, with the dishes we sampled exhibiting intense, exciting flavors (at very fair prices).
A starter of Seafood Gazpacho ($6) was somewhat of a classic, with the chunky texture of blended tomatoes and cucumbers. A few grilled bay scallops and shrimp halves sat on top. The flavor was good, on the sweet side, with the slightest after-bite. More impressive, I found, were the Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Wraps ($7), six tiny grape-leaf rolls filled with minced beef. Each bite elicited a drop of oil onto the plate, revealing their fat-enhanced flavor. Best of all, they came with a dense, brown hoisin peanut dipping sauce that added a hearty bite and shavings of pickled radish and carrot.
A trio of arepas ($8), at corn cakes with luscious toppings, was memorable. One was piled high with Cuban ground beef—hearty, salty and a bit tangy. Another had a couple of beautifully fried shrimp laced with aoili, and the third had a creamy version of guacamole. It was a fabulous way to start the meal.
The Braised Short Ribs ($18) here took the dish to a different, and better, level. The rich meat sat on the plate surrounded by whipped buttery potatoes. On top of the meat was a medley of forest mushrooms—oh, the woody flavors!—wine-soaked pearl onions, meaty slabs of thick, well-browned bacon, and red wine jus. The flavors were a meat lover’s heaven and about as savory as it gets. A delicious horseradish cream was offered alongside, which we enjoyed liberally.
On the lighter side (but not by much) was Barnegat Bay Scallops ($20), which had three of the large bivalves, beautifully seared, sitting on a lemon cream sauce accompanied by three gigantic risotto balls, also infused with lemon. Large batonettes of zucchini and carrot dotted the sauce, to yield an all-around delicious meal.
Perhaps the coup de grâce, though, was the Whole Fried Snapper ($20), beautifully presented upright surrounded by fragrant sofrito rice and sugar-roasted plantains. A sweet-chili tamarind sauce came with it, and all was the stuff of gourmand dreams. The fish had a thick, crisp coating and moist flesh—in the Chinese fried-fish tradition. The plantains were sweet and starchy, while the rice had plenty of fragrant cilantro.
Dessert, too, impressed. Called simply ‘crepe’ ($7), our selection had cooked apple chunks in a caramel sauce laced with Calvados.
the scene | Hip gastropub with Asian and Latino influences
the prices | $6-$9 starters, $10-$13 sandwiches, $13-$20 entrees
the chef/owner | Nhat Nguyen
the favorites | Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Wraps, Braised Short Ribs, Barnegat Bay Scallops, Arepa Trio, Whole Fried Snapper, Calvados Caramel Apple Crepe
chef chat » owner nhat nguyen
favorite ingredient | Vietnamese fish sauce
favorite cookbook | The Art of Living According to Joe Beef by David McMillan, Frédéric Morin and Meredith Erickson
favorite st. louis restaurant | Corner Bistro
most memorable dining experience | Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon; it was the last meal I had with my father.
why did you choose this location? | I was looking for something in the city and I like the neighborhood.
favorite menu item | Whole red snapper
4611 macklind ave. | 314.499.7166
Photos: Bill Barrett