Entries in Au Pied de Cochon (2)


Montreal Journal: Au Pied de Cochon


Although we would have but two evenings in Montreal, one restaurant from our last visit impressed us enough that we were determined to go again: Au Pied de Cochon, literally “The Pig’s Foot.”

pdc_inside.jpgChef Martin Picard has a cult following that almost any chef would envy. I cannot find a single negative review of the place. Maybe it’s because Picard is bribing diners with the most fattening foods imaginable, and serving them in eye-popping combinations no one else would dream of.

I wrote a fairly detailed eGullet post the last time we visited, so  I won’t repeat the background. The only thing that’s new since then is that Martin Picard now has his own cookbook. Like everything else at Au Pied de Cochon, Picard did it his own way, and published the book himself.

And the restaurant is, if anything, even harder to get into. We booked our table a few weeks in advance, but all they could offer me on a Saturday evening was 6:00 p.m., and we had to vacate the table by 8:00. This didn’t deter us: for all of the restaurant’s charms, it is really not a place to linger. The space is cramped, loud, and not especially comfortable.

We had the same server as last time, and once again he advised that an appetizer to share would probably be ample, given the vast portion sizes. I didn’t take note of our wine selection, but the list seemed more expensive than last time. We settled on a respectable red for $65.

We started with the Plogue à Champlain ($23; above), a hunk of foie gras with a buckwheat pancake, bacon, onions, potatoes, and maple syrup. The server explained that a friend of Picard had served this to him at breakfast, and he was so thunderstruck that he added it to the restaurant’s menu. And it was good enough to make you think that God made foie gras and maple syrup to be eaten together every morning.

Pot-au-feu ($60) is one of the few dishes actually advertised as being a portion for two. It’s traditionally a fairly humble dish, but you can count on Picard to spruce it up with foie gras, prairie oysters, and Guinea Hen, along with typical ingredients like boiled beef, bone marrow, and vegetables. We thought that the beef and vegetables turned out especially well, while the Guinea Hen didn’t really repay the effort to pry off the bone what little meat was left.

When we visit Montreal, there’s always a feeling of “so many restaurants…so little time.” But with much of the menu at Au Pied de Chochon still unexplored, it will probably still be a must-visit the next time we come to Montreal.

Au Pied de Cochon (536, rue Duluth Est, Montreal)

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


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: ***