The Whole Pig and Nothing but the Pig

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Toronto, Ontario

A couple weeks ago Kaori asked me if I was interested taking the place of someone who had cancelled on a birthday dinner at Beast Restaurant.

It was a 6 course meat to eat an entire pig. I didn’t know the birthday boy, the guests or the price of the dinner or the menu.




I had been to Beast before for brunch and had their amazing bacon donuts. There was no way I would miss out on an opportunity like this.

It is a tasting menu called The Whole Beast where you choose an animal and they prepare a 6 course tasting menu of the lucky beast.

They have done it before with deer, goat, lamb, duck and of course the popular pig.


rice ball

Amuse Bouche

Dirty rice arancini made with liver, shoulder and house ketchup. I know in general I don’t like organs but I had to make an exception and it was amazing.

The problem with an amuse bouche is that they leaving you wanting more. One was not enough.


1st Course: BLT Salad with peameal bacon, arugula and semi-cured tomatoes.

Solid first course and the semi-cured tomatoes were so sweet I made a mental note to learn how to make them.


2nd course: Crispy hocks formed into cubes with house kimchi, carrot puree and brown butter.

This was a favourite for most people at the table, for me the spicy kimchi really made the dish.



3rd course: Braised tongue on a root vegetable latke with beet relish and fennel.

I had eaten lengua quite a few times in South America, my favourite was in Colombia at a bus terminal.

This was one of my favourite dishes and the fennel had a citrus dressing that again made me think I need to eat more fennel.


pork heart

4th course: Grilled heart atop puy lentils and salsa verde with a quail egg.

Back to the organs. I have had heart before. Beef and chicken hearts on skewers are really popular street meat in Peru. I really wanted to love this dish but the heart had a bit of a weird texture, almost gelatinous in some places. The acidity of the salsa verde was a great balance but I wasn’t in love.

pig head

5th course:  Maple roasted head with deep fried gnocchi, country gravy.

Beast Restaurant knows how to put on a show. First they brought the gnocchi and when they tried to clear space on the table we knew something was up.

Then chef Scott Vivian makes an appearance with this giant pig head with a sparkler coming out of its snout. It was such a sight others asked to take photos.



6th course:  Pudding Chomeur with smoked belly and a bacon butterfinger

I am not a sweets person at all. I don’t care for cakes or pies, I’d rather eat a sandwich. But it’s different at Beast.

I don’t like donuts but I adore Rachelle’s maple bacon donut. And I didn’t think she could top it until I had smoked pork belly with a butterfinger.

It was one of the best birthday dinners I have eaten. You need to have a group as you buy the animal so without a table it could get pricey.

But for under $800 we had amazing service, they brought the birthday boy champagne, a meat tied Beast shirt and wrapped up the head to go for Louis who wanted to make soup with it.

And even before we left the restaurant I started wondering what Beast I should eat next. I really do like venison…



Join the Conversation

  1. Ayngelina thank you for this! It’s amazing and the photos are beyond compare. So glad my friends from Castek got to meet you. I talk to then about you all the time! Can’t wait to share this.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was a really fun night.

  2. I think i would’ve fainted dead away when the head came out. It’s why I won’t ever order a roasted pig at my luaus. i am weak, weak, weak.

    the menu looks fabulous!!! Is this the beast restaurant in Portland or is there one in Toronto?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s the one in Toronto, if you don’t want the head you don’t have to have it. They actually asked ahead of time if it was okay. But I saw so many roasted whole pigs in Latin America it doesn’t bother me. Although I’m not sure I would want to see a cow head.

  3. Ayngelina, you have my undivided admiration for your stomach.I wanted to throw up when I saw your first picture but bravely read to the end.Everybody to their own.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Haha Inka, so true.

  4. Raymond @ Man On The Lam says:

    No apple in its mouth? I’m disappointed. 🙂

    Seriously — every bit looks yummy!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was amazing, definitely worth trying.

  5. Wow, that was a huge pig. I don’t think I can eat from the head. I guess the organs looks more appetizing in this case. By the way, the total restaurant concept is really cool.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      We only ate the cheeks and they were good. Normally I do not like organs but I must say I’ve been moving toward eating the whole animal so that there is no waste.

      And yes such a great concept, definitely great for a special ocassion.

  6. gayE @ pinaytraveljunkie says:

    Wow, this is something for the bestial appetite! Haha. Kidding aside, everything looked yum except… The heart. Looking a bit too raw for my taste.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m not a big fan of heart, it wasn’t my favourite but it was good.

  7. I will not eat tongue or beef heart. Too rich. An elegant meal to be sure.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      They do take into account the richness of the meat, which is why you’ll see it paired with things like fennel and kimchi to balance out the flavours.

  8. Courtney Mroch says:

    LMAO! You were not kidding. Your title is absolutely PERFECT! You really did dine on the whole pig…head to toe! (Although, did you write about pig’s feet? You sure had everything else covered…. 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know, actually no pigs feet, I should have asked why. I had them pickled in Oaxaca and really liked them.

  9. What a cool concept! I think though that I might be a little too picky to actually eat there – heart, liver, a full head? I’m sure it’s delicious, but it might just be too much for me… Maybe I would have to start with something small like a duck.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You can choose any animal you like but the meal is a surprise. That said, they did call Kaori in advance to ask if it was okay to bring the head out but we all loved it.

      If someone didn’t tell you what you were eating all you would think is that it was great food, maybe you could ask to see the menu afterwards 🙂

  10. Camels & Chocolate says:

    What–no trotters? 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oddly enough no!

  11. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures says:

    Dear God that is a lot of pork… At least it all looks amazing (say for the head…)!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Maybe because I spent so much time in Latin America seeing a pigs head is no big deal. But I do think many people are so disconnected from meat that they are bothered by the head. If we’re going to eat it we need to remember an animal died so we could eat.

  12. Siddhartha Joshi says:

    Wow…this certainly looks interesting, though I am a vegetarian 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well if it helps the kimchi was delicious too.

  13. LOL!!!!! Where in the world do you get this from? Sure makes the pork chops you had as a kid look pretty sad. Please don’t make me do this when we go to Maui. I am sure I can’t handle it. I could barely get past the “little paw” on my plate in Ecuador when we tried cuay.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I am pretty sure there is a good chance we’ll be going somewhere with a roasted pig so I can’t promise you that.

  14. Fine dining indeed, despite the awkward first pic!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You mean the first awesome pic!

  15. Ayngelina, I didn’t know that your readers are so squeamish. Must say I’m disappointed…where are all the food people? 😉

  16. This is really a unique place, but I could never eat here. I want to throw up just looking at that photo of the pigs head. Scott gives me shit for it all the time, but I really don’t like to think about the fact that I’m eating an animal. I should have been a vegetarian. Kudos to you for trying all of these dishes though!

  17. Michaela Hall says:

    I’m with Christy. I had to cover my mouth after seeing the head, but I wouldn’t mind tasing all the courses. I wouldn’t have carved the head though! Poor pig! But, I bet he tasted great.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I was so full I just had a taste of the cheeks, it was delicious.

  18. Cathy Sweeney says:

    The head doesn’t look too appetizing to me, but some of the dishes are mouth-watering. What an unusually cool restaurant.

  19. Um….I don’t think I could handle this. Very impressed with some of the things you eat!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The pigs head was last before dessert and I was full. It was a spectacle, other diners came over to take photos.

  20. Damn. Now this looks like a meal. I would eat everything, no question. Spending 3 months in Turkey has left me dying for pig. Dalene is debating bringing some back from Italy when she whips over for TBU..

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know the food in Turkey is good but I would demand she bring back food from Italy. How could you pass that up!

  21. All my time in Toronto and I’ve never tried Beast. Must fix this when I’m home next.

    Looks like an amazing meal! Glad you enjoyed. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes definitely, the next time you’re in town let me know and we’ll go for brunch. They make really great maple bacon donuts.

  22. Mmm, venison is delicious – you should definitely try that next! This restaurant looks great. Love that you got the head to go.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I had venison for the first time years ago in New Zealand and if I could cook it properly it would rival pork as my favourite meat.

  23. Mark Wiens says:

    Wow, that’s a stunning meal. I’m with you and dessert – I’d much rather fill up on the salty meaty foods than eat sweets – but when the dessert includes pork I might make an exception!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Salty desserts are definitely worth it!

  24. Tawny- Captain and Clark says:

    HOLY COW (or should I say “pig”)! This is a restaurant that is right up Chris’s alley. I’m definitely a big pig (read: BACON) fan, but I’ve been known to struggle with the organs. We might have to give this a try the next time we find ourselves in Toronto.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have always said I don’t like organs but now I’m starting to rethink that opinion.

  25. Kieu ~ GQ trippin says:

    OMG! Every bit of it looks delicious! Why haven’t I dined like this before?! We just might need to make a trip to Toronto.. pronto.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You definitely need to come to Toronto, the food scene is really starting to heat up.

  26. WOW! Under $800 for six people! Not a bargain, but The Beast looks like an amazing foodie experience!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      To have a food experience like this, it is not expensive but this is definitely reserved for special ocassions.

  27. You eat some bloody tasty looking stuff 😀

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have been fortunate 🙂

  28. The Travel Chica says:

    I still need to try lengua!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You will love it, it’s really good.

  29. Por qué?? Por qué me haces esto??? So yummy. Except for maybe the pig head, my stomach still can’t handle the visual… Eating entire, roasted, baby pigs is common here at Christmas, but I still can’t handle it and just stick to the giant prawns.

  30. Bobbi Lee Hitchon says:

    That meal is making my mount water. What a brilliant idea for a meal! Great photos.

  31. I’m totally a fan of beef heart but the jelly like aspect of the pork would have killed it for me.

  32. Christy @ Technosyncratic says:

    Oh my word, that’s a lot of pig! The fact that they wrapped the head to go kind of cracks me up. =P

  33. Ron | Active Planet Travels says:

    Wow this is pretty interesting. Have you ever tried pork brains and eggs? Sounds disgusting but is absolutely delicious believe it or not. I have sampled fish heart before but have yet to try a pigs heart but they make it look quite appealing! 😀 Nice!

  34. And how did you like the roast pig? Do tell! In the Philippines, no feast is complete without a whole crunchy, mouth-watering, can’t-live-without you-roast pig. Usually the center piece of the buffet table, it bites on a red apple with whole fried chickens inside….

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I adore pig and ate a lot of lechon when I lived in the Philippines ten years ago.

  35. I feel bad for the pig, but happy that everyone had a good time.

  36. Waegook Tom says:

    Wow, I’ve NEVER heard of anything like that before!!! Not sure how I’d feel about chomping into an entire pig’s head…but it’s maple glazed, so I guess I could manage 😉

    Really interesting post. Venison sounds like a good choice. I wonder how much a whole stag would cost?!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      They have done venison before so I’m not sure but you would need to have a lot of people there to be able to eat the whole thing which would offset the cost.

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