Lee Hefter, Spago Beverly Hills' executive chef, used to dream of finding pork that was as moist and flavorful as meat he'd tasted in Europe and Asia. Then he tried American-raised kurobuta. Literally "supreme black hog" in Japanese, kurobuta comes from English Berkshire pigs, which are indeed black and slightly larger than standard breeds. In the 19th century, several of the prize pigs were sent to Japan as a diplomatic gift; today some Tokyo restaurants specialize in kurobuta, which has shorter muscle fibers and finer marbling than other pork and is deep pink, juicy and delicious.

Hefter was delighted when Idaho's Snake River Farms began selling kurobuta in 2003; now he features it in preparations like slow-roasted loin and belly. It's also on the menu at Los Angeles's Table 8, where chef Govind Armstrong brines then pan-roasts porterhouses and at Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe, California, which offers smoked chops. At Lilette in New Orleans, kurobuta is dry-cured then cooked with a mandarin orange glaze (from $10 for 8 oz. at Lobel's of New York; 877-783-4512).
—Carolynn Carreño