Montclair’s Pig and Prince has only been open a few short months, but it’s already garnered a review from the New York Times. The review, which touches on some of the history behind the magnificently renovated Lackawanna Railroad terminal, enthuses about the “sensational space” designed by William Hull Botsford over 100 years ago complete with soaring vaulted ceiling and bronze chandeliers. In addition to the surroundings, Times reviewer Scott Veale praises the “intriguing” menu created by chef Michael Carrino and gives high marks to an expertly balanced butternut squash bisque, the duck confit risotto with figs and pistachios, as well as a seared Atlantic cod and a skate paired with potato rosti and Thai red curry sauce.
The problem with Pig and Prince, says Veale, comes down to service. He cites specific examples including long waits at the bar, bread first arriving after appetizers were finished and scattershot filling of water and wine glasses. The review ends on a sweet note with recognition of the masterful desserts created by Amanda Hartigan.
I’ve been to Pig and Prince four times since it opened and like Veale, found the space to be sensational and much of the food memorable. My few quibbles were with certain dishes — the heavy handed execution of duck fat fries with foie gras gravy and taleggio, resulting in half the portion rendered limp and sodden, or the confusingly-named pretzel bombs, that while tasty, don’t provide much of an explosion. Like Veale, seafood dishes stood out on all my visits, including seared Barnegat bay diver scallops served with forbidden black risotto, shallot fondue, sauce beurre rouge and beurre blanc and a mussel appetizer with smoked andouille sausage, saffron wine and coconut milk. Whimsical desserts, like the mini chocolate souffle paired with a vanilla latte shot to pour over it and a quenelle of toasted almond ice cream, shined.
Pig and Prince’s greatest challenge is one of its own making. Resurrecting this long-forgotten terminal to something spectacular raises every diners’ expectations the minute they walk through the warmly lit entrance and first glimpse the dramatic surroundings. Carrino, with his farm to table aesthetic, attention to detail (curing his own meats) and dedication to the community (evidenced by his preparing and donating 400 Thanksgiving meals to the Salvation Army), has set a high bar for himself with the magical space he and business partner Serge Hunkins created in this neglected corner of Montclair. Among the many charming details added to Pig and Prince is a light installation over a hallway that mimics the constellation of stars in the New Jersey night sky. I’m rooting for Carrino and company to reach past the 50 foot ceiling and toward those stars as they continue their journey with Pig and Prince.