“You are going to love it,” my server urged me. I was at the Spanish restaurant Ser in Arlington, deciding between canelones con béchamel, stuffed with pork, chicken and foie gras, or the more expensive presa de cerdo Ibérico ahumada. Of course, he was pointing me to the pricier entree. But I couldn’t help but somehow trust him. How right I was.
The simple dish was one of the juiciest, most tender pieces of pork I’ve eaten anywhere, let alone in Virginia. The dish arrived under a dome filled with smoke, which swirled and dissipated quickly, but provided an aromatic appetizer to the flavor of the pork to come. Each of the four slices of pink-centered meat melted like well-prepared wagyu. It didn’t need a sauce, but Mojo Picón, with its gorgeous balance of vinegar and cumin, amplified the smokiness of the pork and worked even better with the tender and colorful mini potatoes prepared in the style of Canarian papas arrugadas.
It wasn’t until I did some research after I tasted the pork that I learned that the cut I tried is sought-after in Spain. Known for its marbling, the presa is a tiny cut from part of the shoulder, just next to the loin, sort of like what the center-cut Chateaubriand is to the tenderloin. Iberian pigs are themselves known to be well-marbled. An Iberian presa is indeed about as close as you can get to wagyu from a pig. And it’s listed on the menu at Ser as if it’s no big deal. I’m glad I listened to my server. And I’ll definitely be back for a Meaty Monday whenever the desire for lightly smoky, tender pork hits. Of course, for me, that’s now a near-constant craving. // 1110 N. Glebe Road, Arlington
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