9531 Culver Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA, 90232
Phone: (310) 202-1470
Happy Hour, Mon-Fri: 3pm-5:30pm bar and dining room, 5:30pm-7pm bar only
Chef Ben Ford on Twitter
The Los Angeles Foodie Rating:
I visit Ford’s Filling Station regularly, and it rarely disappoints. Chef Ben Ford is almost always on-site, sometimes working the front of the house and sometimes sweating in the kitchen with the rest of his staff. This summer, you might even find him manning a gas grill on the front patio, slinging burgers and beers during one of the Culver City Summer Block Parties (PDF link). The whole pig feast is one of several special events that Ford’s will host for a group of people, and it is one of the things that makes this restaurant special. You are made to feel like royalty as each new dish is presented and explained. While the whole pig feast is very expensive, many hardcore food aficionados will find the price reasonable for what is provided.
Chef Ben Ford is relatively reserved for a celebrity chef. Even though he has appeared on countless television programs and even battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, Ford always appears calm and cool. This attitude is reflected in his restaurant, which aims to make every patron feel relaxed, calm, and welcome. There is extensive use of natural wood and dark yet even lighting.
Whenever possible, the chef used our pig in the preparation of the dishes. Of course, this simply wasn’t possible with foods like charcuterie. Our first course was a series of three flat breads, which are a Ford’s Filling Station standard.
Next was a lightly dressed, mixed greens salad adorned with various parts for the pigs head including its ears. Now I know why my dog goes crazy when I give her a pig ear. This stuff is delicious.
Then we were served a house-made pork sausage. This dish didn’t bowl me over as a whole, but it was quite good.
Yes, those are deep fried eyeballs. While I doubt I’ll set eyeballs out for my next barbecue, they are much better than they look. The only way to describe their taste and texture is to say, “They taste like eyeballs.” I recommend trying some the next time you get the chance.
The biggest laugh of the meal was when one of the waiters delivered a satchel of what looked to be a cross between surgical tools and the kinds of stainless steel instruments that the really evil guy in a movie produces right before he plans to torture the good guy. In other words, these cutting implements were terrifying, and they got everyone at the table excited for what came next.
This enormous platter of food includes the pig’s head, both legs, sheets of crispy fried skin, a mountain of shredded pork (you can’t see it very well from this angle, but there are more photos in the gallery below), and haricots verts and Brussels sprouts, both cooked in pork fat with bacon.
We were all feeling adventurous, and most of us had never tried brain. So we asked the chef to take the head back to the kitchen and extract the brain for us. It’s a strange flavor, almost tinny. And the texture is like a grainy fois gras. I’m not rushing to try it again soon, but it was an interesting dish.
And finally, we were served a maple-vanilla ice cream topped with hand-cut bacon strips. It was, as you can imagine, incredible.
Nearly every dish was great, and some were truly exceptional. There were eight of us dining on the whole pig, but we could have easily done four more and still had leftovers. Therefore, while the meal is very expensive, a larger crowd can make it more affordable. Anyway, this isn’t the kind of meal you want to skimp on. After all, the expression “whole hog” means to go all the way.
Chef Ford didn’t prepare or present our meal, but that didn’t diminish the experience. Our chef was funny, helpful, attentive, and excited about every aspect of the meal. Chef Ford did eventually visit our table after we requested the pig’s skull be cracked so that we could sample the brain. Chef Ford chatted for a few minutes with our table about eating brain and other weird stuff.