UPDATE: Brent Katte contacted me on October 18 to say he's no longer associated with the restaurant, so the cocktail program has most likely changed.
Chef Derek Ronspies, former co-chef at Art of Table with his brother Dustin, has taken over the second-floor space previously home to Showa at 701 N 36th Street. At Le Petit Cochon—for those who didn't take French in high school that means "the little pig"— Rospies is serving up a full-on nose-to-tail, farm-to-table, it’s-all-about-the-food, we-like-hyphens kind of menu.
Ronspies doesn’t feel the need for his restaurant to have an overarching “theme” or, other then a few pig statues, even much décor at all. He just wants to make excellent food that is paired with just-as-excellent cocktails. He wants to support local farmers, ranchers, and shellfish providers. The chairs are comfortable, the tables are solid wood, and the space is cozy.
Here are five reasons to get excited about tonight's opening. Warning: significant profanity ahead, starting now.
Shit, in a throwdown, I’ve got my money on chef Derek Ronspies. He’s passionate, that’s for sure. He’s also scrappy, not afraid to drop F-bombs, and call bullshit. He says, “It’s about food, it’s about the fucking people that are coming in to eat, and it’s about the drinks. And that’s it.” Ronspies has been cooking for more than 20 years, he worked closely with his brother for many of them, but he’s always been ready to be out on his own. He trained under Mike LaScola of the adorably quaint American Seasons in Nantucket. Ronspies started as a line cook and worked his way up to chef de cuisine.
Proteins like duck feet, trotters, blood sausage, foie gras, tongue, and pig face. It would seem that almost nothing is off the table for Ronspies, even Derek's nut sack, by which I of course mean the name he has bestowed on the starter dish of spiced nuts listed on the menu. But all jokes about male anatomy aside—the dishes are not boring. The housemade blood sausage comes with crispy fried oysters, marinated spinach, and a kobocha squash puree, while a bit on the lighter side is a black cod with kale and cannellini beans with buttery clams, turnips, and arugula pesto. And all the charcuterie and pickles—smoked, canned, or cured—is done in house.
Food is the priority, but drinks aren't an afterthought. Bar manager Brent Katte says, “First and foremost, this is a restaurant.” It’s not really a place to stop in for a Jack and ginger or a Cape Cod. As Ronspies puts it, “No, I don’t have Grey Goose, go next door and get fucking Grey Goose.” Overall, he wants his guests to try something new, it’s not a place to come for your usual drink order. There’s no soda gun, all the mixers are in bottles, there’s a large and growing bitters collection, and Katte is using herbs and spices from the kitchen and infusing them into his cocktail list. His newest creation is called Gourd in Kentucky, it’s a combination of bourbon, a housemade pumpkin syrup, rhubarb bitters, vermouth, and fresh nutmeg.
Ronspies didn't waste time on the decor. You won’t see Edison bulbs or taxidermy heads here. Actually, not much has changed since Showa held the space. It’s all about what’s served on the plate in front of you, Ronspies says. (Are you sensing a theme here?) “My theme is the fucking people. I don’t give a shit about the glasses that are on the table.”
Da’ Pork. Nut sacks and profanities aside, Ronspies is really taking advantage of all the wonderful farms, seafood, and produce we have in Washington for his menu. His shellfish is coming from Taylor Shellfish and Jones Family Farms of Lopez Island. His pigs come from Brent Olsen of Olsen farms out of Colville. He says, “I’ve never had pigs that have tasted this good.” So good in fact, that taste-testing diners at the friends and family open asked how long he had brined the pork chop, only to find it wasn't brined at all. The “Phat Ass” pork chop comes with cheddar grits, collared greens, a drunken plum jam, and it takes around 28 minutes—so chew on some crispy duck feet while you wait.
Le Petite Cochon opens tonight at 5:30. Keep an eye on updates on Facebook, here.