For fans of pigs’ feet and the bubbling delight that is hot pot, there’s been a miracle on 35th Street.
That’s where Hakata TonTon, which originally opened in the West Village on Grove Street in 2007 but shuttered its doors in 2020 due to the pandemic, has reopened under the new ownership of Hand Hospitality with a menu that contains some old favorites including a pigs’ feet-laden hot pot being put together by longtime chef Koji Hagihara. (The cooking is handled by the built-in induction plate that graces each table.)
While there are a few holdovers from the previous version of the restaurant like the collagen-rich hot pot and veal-liver sashimi, the menu at Hakata TonTon is no longer almost exclusively stocked with dishes that incorporate pigs’ feet in one way or another and now features items including the Bloom Tomato (a kimchi-inspired pickled tomato with onion, carrot and scallion), Goma Hamachi (raw baby yellowtail, scallion, seaweed and sesame sauce) and Shake Shake Ramen (a brothless dish that is literally shaken in front of the customer).
Though there’s excitement about the opening and the revamped menu, Alex Park of Hand Hospitality says it was important for pigs’ feet, tonsoku, to get new life at the new Hakata TonTon. “Hakata, where the concept for Hakata TonTon came from, is a Japanese port city that was influenced by Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, and South Asian cultures where pork is a very popular ingredient,” he says. “People try to eat the whole pig in an effort to not waste any part and pig trotter is a specialty in Hakata. We felt that it was important to honor our roots and origin. Also, there aren’t many restaurants — if any — in New York City that offer this on their menu, so it helps sets us apart.”
Available on their own or served in a gyoza or with fried rice, tonsoku are also served in a variety of different ways outside of being a component of the TonTon Hot Pot (spicy miso tonsoku broth, chicken thigh, pork trotter, pork belly, dumplings, tofu, cabbage, spinach, chives, goji Berries, garlic, and jalapenos). Park is aware those porky offerings may not appeal to every prospective diner, but his message is fairly clear: don’t knock ’em til you’ve tried ’em.
“Pig trotter can be delicious on its own or in a broth and often takes on the flavors of what it’s cooked in,” he says. “If cooked slow and for a long period of time, the meat becomes very soft and tender and the gelatin in the trotter’s skin and bones can create a richness in stews and soups to help thicken them. If cooked on its own, the skin can become very crunchy while the meat offers a pleasant jiggly texture. It is worth a try.”
For guests who still aren’t convinced, Hakata TonTon has no shortage of available liquid courage options as the bar, which is stocked with traditional spirits, Fukuoka’s specialty sake as well as traditional Japanese shochu, boasts a full cocktail program featuring a variety of drinks made with popular Japanese ingredients like yuzu, wasabi and ume.
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