Monday, August 29, 2011

AU PIED DE COCHON


Chef Martin Picard's Au Pied de Cochon has become a quintessential spot on the Montreal restaurant scene for tourists and locals alike. The busy and loud Quebecois restaurant that may very well have created the shift towards upscale dining conceptualized for the average joe combined with its altar to all things foie gras perspective has gained the restaurant praise, an almost cult-like following and many imitators. With the good though, comes the bad and with it's explosive popularity not only here in Montreal but on the world scene this well deserved attention has also made it the focus of critics and detractors who like to downplay the restaurant's phenomenal success, focusing on the rock and roll attitude and reckless abandon for calories and subtlety.

We are long time fans of Au Pied de Cochon. We've had the pleasure of celebrating many special occasions and birthday dinners with family and friends there and have visited their latest expansion Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon twice in three years. We've eaten nearly the entire menu from top to bottom throughout the years, from the famous foie gras poutine all the way to the whole pig's head. On our many visits two things remain consistent: very rarely have we eaten anything we didn't thoroughly enjoy and we always leave so full that we don't know what to do with ourselves. If you're looking for a quiet romantic date night dinner with delicate food, this is not the place; expect a loud and lively dining room and portions suitable for a lumberjack.

On this visit, we went with a selection of some of our favorite staple menu items. Au Pied de Cochon offers a terrific wine list of almost all private imports and their experienced sommelier is friendly and very helpful, but here's a not so well kept secret: they also brew their own brand of PDC beer that tastes amazing and pairs wonderfully with 90% of the menu. We start our meal with a couple of PDC beers and 2 snacks from the "starters" portion of the menu. 

Our meal begins with foie gras "cromesquis", 2 one-bite morsels of molten foie gras encapsulated in a heavily breaded and deep fried exterior necessary to be capable of containing its liquefied content. If you've never eaten them before this is not the time to act like you have because the dish comes with instructions that are important to follow. Your waiter will instruct you to allow it to cool for 30 seconds, listen because otherwise you will burn your tongue and ruin the rest of your meal, trust us. Second, your waiter will tell you to keep your mouth closed and breath in through your nose. Both of these steps are important to follow for the sake of your dry-cleaning bill and of course your enjoyment of the experience. Breathing through your nose introduces air and enhances the ability of your taste buds to amplify the flavor of the foie gras whilst keeping your mouth closed avoids squirting hot liquid foie gras on your date or your wardrobe. Seriously its not difficult, let it cool, keep your mouth shut, remember to breathe, enjoy.

 Foie Gras "Cromesquis" - 3.50$

Our second snack is an order of tempura fried zucchini blossoms with homemade mayonnaise. They're only available on the summer menu and they're one of the things we look forward to most when we go. The fried squash blossoms are a crispy, lightly salty, perfect accompaniment to a few cold beers on a warm summer night, this dish equals summer to us.

 Tempura Fried Zucchini Blossoms - 6$

Our appetizers were the tomato tartlet and the bison tongue. The tomato tartlet is a rich, tender and buttery, savory, flaky pie dough. It is first covered with a layer of sweet caramelized onions followed by a creamy béchamel sauce, a little bit of dijon mustard, a sprinkling of salty, nutty grated gruyère cheese, and sliced fresh tomato topped with salt and fresh thyme, baked and served warm. The bison tongue is slow cooked and tremendously tender served in a rich stock studded with sweet diced carrot and sour gherkins and dressed lightly with a bright acidic tarragon vinaigrette; the dish is finished with a few dollops of dijon mustard. Both of these dishes are on the menu all year around and never fail to impress.

Tomato Tartlet - 6.50$
Tarragon Bison Tongue - 7.50$

For our mains we went with two more options that are offered on the menu year-round. One from the "Pig" section of the menu and one from the "Foie Gras" section of the menu. Yes, if you didn't already know there is a full section of the menu at Au Pied de Cochon dedicated to all things foie gras. First the PDC melting pot, which is a one dish testament to the versatility of the pig. Pork belly, pork loin, homemade boudin and pork sausage are served with sautéed onions over a base of PDC mashed potatoes which are silky, smooth mashed potatoes with curd cheese melted and homogeneously mixed into them. The pork belly is fatty and falls apart under your fork, the sausage is made with a natural casing that snaps when you bite into it and tastes lightly smoky. The blood sausage is rich with a supple mouthfeel,  it's lightly but still sufficiently irony and tastes of the warm spicy flavor of quatre épices. We must say that this particular time the pork loin was a little bit dry for our liking but normally isn't, we still finished it and enjoyed it but feel it's necessary to be unbiased and tell it the way it was. The dish is a great choice for the indecisive since it has a little bit of everything in it not to mention those incredible PDC mashed potatoes soaking up pan juices at the bottom.

PDC Melting Pot - 20.50$

Our main from the "Foie Gras" portion of the menu had to be one of  our all time  favorites, the foie gras and boudin tart. The same buttery, tender, savory pie dough as in the tomato tartlet is this time rolled out quite a bit larger and topped with a layer of caramelized onion, followed by a layer of new potato and a plentiful amount of the same delicious blood sausage as in the PDC melting pot. The whole thing is then covered in slices of silky, decadent, salt cured foie gras and a light drizzle of dijon mustard and sprinkled chopped parsley. 

Foie Gras & Boudin Tart - 28$

We were absurdly full at this point and had no business ordering dessert, but you know we did anyway because you can't reason with us when it comes to dessert. We ordered "grandpères" with blueberry maple syrup and vanilla ice cream. This was the only item we ordered off the daily special menu, it came highly recommended by our waitress since it is blueberry season after all. Grand père is the french word for grandfather but grandpères are a very old French Canadian dessert of sweet flour dumplings simmered immersed in maple syrup. The dumplings were soft and covered in sweet maple syrup and fresh blueberries with a side of excellent quality vanilla ice cream in a sundae glass also topped with the same blueberry maple syrup. We may not have needed it but we certainly wanted it, and we're happy we ordered it.

Blueberry "Grandpères" & Vanilla Ice cream - 12$

The food and the atmosphere are completely over the top at Au Pied de Cochon. Martin Picard and his band of work-shirt wearing, misfit cooks in the loud open kitchen are executing an awesome in-your-face menu and endless daily specials that rather than bashfully expressing their love for Quebec cooking, shouts it in a megaphone from a mountain top. The food draws inspiration from true Quebec traditional dishes and the bounty of impeccable ingredients our vast province has to offer season by season. This restaurant has not only succeeded immensely, but has woven itself into the fabric of our city with its unabashed working class gone foie gras flare. At one time a trip to Montreal wasn't complete without a trip to Schwartz's Deli and maybe St-Viateur or Fairmount bagel, these days you can add Au Pied de Cochon to that list. So, if you're coming in to town, call well in advance for a reservation because you'll certainly need one; and if you're a native Montrealer and have never been we can't imagine what you're waiting for. 

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth East
Montreal, QC
514-281-1114


Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

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