Note: First Looks give previews of new bars and restaurants we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
My main memory of a small, second floor space in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is Showa and specifically its rich, porky tonkotsu ramen. That restaurant has closed (and, sadly, the former chef's Showa Ramen at Bloom restaurant is nowhere as good as the original), but in its place is pork a plenty at Le Petit Cochon.
Chef Derek Ronspies had been working with his brother Dustin at the highly acclaimed Art of the Table before branching out with Le Petit Cochon. The vibe is casual and playful (case in point: the first menu item is "Derek's Nut Sack"), but the mission is serious: "Nose to tail...a sustainable way of dining on a whole new level." Ronspies is dedicated to using the whole animal, offal and all, so look for parts like tongue, testicles, and trotters on the menu.
Ronspies attributes the quality of his food to the quality of his ingredients, so he sources them carefully, and he's quick to praise his suppliers. "I want to know where my food is coming from, and that's hitting me harder now that I have my own restaurant," he explains. From foie gras to duck feet to pig face to trotters, the products have a connection to real people who Ronspies values as colleagues and friends.
While there's a lot of meat on the menu, Ronspies wants the dishes to have many interesting elements. Despite working with limited space, he's pickling, smoking, and fermenting a number of ingredients, with plans to do more as he settles into the small kitchen. Ultimately, Ronspies says, "Le Petit Cochon is about food, family, and fun."
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.