Maison - Restaurant José Maria

This is a “bucket list” restaurant that, now that I have eaten here twice, I intend to return several more times before kicking the proverbial bucket. The owner and chef, José Maria, has his own farm where the baby piglets are raised and butchered (at three weeks of age when they weight 3-4 kilos). They satisfy the insatiable appetites of the thousands of people who arrive from around the world to taste these suckling pigs, which are only big enough to serve four diners. The crunchy skin, extraordinary white meat and intense flavors make this the finest suckling pig I have ever had in my life. The tradition is to have one of the guests chop up the pig into four pieces with the end of their dinner plate. I’ve seen it done twice, and it’s that easy to cut because of its tenderness. The soup of white beans and pig sausage is fabulous as well. Chef José Maria insisted we eat some baby goat sweetbreads, which I normally resist, but these were delicious.

As for the wines, we had several bottles of Dom Ruinart’s Non Vintage Champagne, which were very good. We were also required to drink the owner’s Ribera del Duero, from one of the better bodegas in the area, Pago de Carraovejas. We tasted both his 2007 Vendemia Seleccionada, which is still young, rich and spicy, and the 2009 El Anejon, which is a rich, modern-styled wine with loads of fruit and glycerin. José Maria has about five or six cuvées, all of which merit attention. They are imported into the USA by Kysela Père et Fils in Winchester, VA.

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