Pigs' ear is this year's most fashionable meat, a staple not just in Sichuan cold cases but in Thai restaurants and French bistros, meaty taverns and chic wine bars. If you are planning on opening a modern gastropub without pigs' ear on the menu, you might as well stick to Beer Nuts and Bac-O-Nets. But for all of its popularity, pigs' ear is notoriously hard to prepare: Just ask Ludovic Lefebvre, whose pigs' ear quesadillas famously fell short on Top Chef Masters last year -- or anybody who has cracked a tooth on any of the underbraised and overfried pigs' ears that have have popped up in restaurants this year.
But even amid the happy appendage's delicious new wave, at Animal, at Church & State and at the Yard, Joseph Centeno's current version at Lazy Ox, at least the third variation to hit his chalkboard menu since the restaurant opened last year, stands out. The best of the breed tend to feature a crisp crust and a gooey, melty core of braised cartilage, but Centeno's ears, thick cut, long-cooked, with a multilayered crunch beneath your teeth, resemble nothing less than great carnitas, oozing, porky things that taste as if they have been simmering for hours in pure lard. Ears to good times indeed.
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Laxy Ox Canteen: 241 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles; (213) 626-5299.