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Au Pied de Cochon

My friend and I spent last weekend in Montreal—the first visit for either of us. Au Pied de Cochon (“The Pig’s Foot”) was tops on our list of restaurants to try. We were totally delinquent in making reservations, so we were pleased that our hotel concierge was able to book us in at 9pm on the night of our arrival (Friday), and Toqué (see the next post) at 9:30pm the following evening. In New York, we probably wouldn’t have had such luck.

Perhaps a better name for the restaurant would be Au Pied de Cochon et Canard, because the signature ingredient is foie gras. A whole section of the menu is dedicated to foie gras, and it figures in many other dishes as well. Several of the foie gras selections are clearly meant to be humorous riffs on popular comfort food normally served without it, such as foie gras poutine, foie gras grilled cheese, and foie gras hamburger. (A recent article in Gourmet said that Au Pied de Cochon goes through 300 pounds of foie gras per week.)

Poutine is a popular fast food dish (even McDonald’s has a version of it), consisting of french fries, cheese curd, and gravy. Foie gras poutine, naturally, is the same thing, but with a huge hunk of seared foie gras as the centrepiece, and a hint of foie gras in the gravy. We thought it was terrific.

Many of the dishes have cryptic names, of which the most humorous is “duck in a can.” There is no explanation on the menu, but our server explained that it’s duck breast and foie gras cooked inside a can. We didn’t order this, but we saw a serving of it delivered to another table. Sure enough, the server brings a medium-sized soup can to the table, opens it with a conventional can opener, and then pours the meal onto the diner’s plate. Who would think of such a thing?

During the summer, the menu skews towards seafood. We saw massive raw bar platters being delivered to the tables, priced anywhere betwen $45 and $320. Pork, lamb, and venison also remain fixtures on the menu. Au pied de Cochon’s steak frites is made with venison all year long.

We ordered the pied de cochon foie gras, which again would be obscure if the server didn’t explain that it’s a whole shank of pig’s foot with foie gras, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. It was indescribably good, and the kind of dish you’re not going to find anywhere else.

Portion sizes were enormous—not just the things we ordered, but also the servings we saw delivered to other tables. Our server kindly advised that one order of poutine foie gras and one order of pied de cochon foie gras would be ample for two people, as this wouldn’t have been apparent from the menu. That pied de cochon was $48, but when served for two it is a bargain.

The apple pie was the only thing we ordered that was listed as a portion for two on the menu. Naturally, it was big enough for three. It came freshly baked, and was about the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted in a restaurant.

The chef, Martin Picard, has made a reputation with his button-down shirts (never tucked in), wild hair, and three-day-old beard. While we were there, he was all over the place — cooking some of the food, drinking beer and wine, and chatting up the customers. He said “Bon soir” to us as we left.

The space is informal, with tables fairly close together. The restaurant is only about 20 feet wide (although it is fairly deep). To get to the men’s room, you actually have to pass through the open kitchen. However, service was friendly and attentive. Our server recommended a superb wine at about $48 that went perfectly with our foie gras festival of a meal.

Au Pied de Cochon (536, rue Duluth Est, Montréal, Quebec)

Food: ***
Service: **½
Ambiance: *½
Overall: ***

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