Au Pied de Cochon (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

As I talked about in my previous post, Quebec is known for it’s culinary heritage, particularly that resulting from the French fur trading heritage, so there are a lot of rich, hearty dishes. Poutine, in particular, is a Quebecois favorite, consisting of fries, cheese curd (and it must be curd, poutine doesn’t work with shredded cheese), and gravy. But it’s almost impossible to do a web search on poutine in Montreal without getting a recommendation for Au Pied de Cochon.

Hiding behind a most unassuming storefront on Rue Duluth a few blocks east of St Denis, chef Martin Picard has opened a modest restaurant that is, quite frankly, a shrine to two things: traditional Quebecois cuisine, and meat itself. Au Pied de Cochon (the name literally mean’s “pig’s foot”), the restaurant is basically dedicated to large slabs of freshly roasted meat, served up with impossibly rich sauces, and even the more-than-occasional slab of foie gras. And it’s become quite the foodie destination in Montreal (which even before Au Pied de Cochon had quite the reputation as a food tourism destination), meaning that every night it’s open, PdC is packed to the gills, and it took some groveling for us to get a 9pm reservation.

The menu here is basically, meat, meat, and more meat. Highlighted menu items include the “Happy Pork Chop”, the “PdC Cut” (basically a 1 lb pork loin), and pig’s feet (with or without foie gras stuffing), along with several sides, such as poutine (again, with or without foie gras). We opted for the foie gras poutine, the beef tartare, the “Happy Pork Chop” for Carol, and the Pied de Cochon for myself.

Opening with the foie gras poutine, it was the perfect expression of the dish, with perfectly double-cooked fries (cooked in duck fat), crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. The cheese curds were flavorful, and just starting to soften in the gravy. The gravy itself was a nice, savory gravy. And of course, several nice, thick slabs of perfectly seared foie gras.

Definitely the best poutine I’ve had. It’s also a leading candidate for the most unhealthy single dish I’ve ever had.

Next up was the tartare. Nicely prepped and seasoned chopped beef, topped with a fresh quail’s egg, this was served up hand-roll style in a seaweed cone. Which is unfortunate, the seaweed didn’t really lend anything to this dish, and indeed, I think it subtracted from it, since it really covered up a lot of the beef taste, which should be the focus of a dish like this. It wasn’t bad, but I won’t order this again, I really prefer the classic presentation if I’m getting tartare.

When you’re at a restaurant called Au Pied de Cochon, you’ve simply got to try the Pied de Cochon (pig’s foot). This was a perfectly roasted pig’s foot (crispy skin, cartilage softened, meat tender), although you can’t see it hidden under the sauce (dijon mustard and shallot cream sauce).

Served with Aligot, which is basically extremely cheesy mashed potatoes. (Scarily, you can also order this stuffed with foie gras, just in case you need that extra something…)
A most excellent dinner, and the rare example of a dish that bested me (I was simply unable to finish everything, although I did eat all the meat). Mind you, there was enough butter in this dish alone (probably three sticks between the sauce and the mash), plus some cheese whipped into the potatoes, that I may have to fast for a few days (remember that right before this we had the foie gras poutine!).

Carol did quite good with her Happy Pork Chop as well, a big giant pork chop which Carol got to watch them roast in their big oven, periodically pulling it out to baste it. Perfectly cooked, perfectly tender, and focused nicely on the pork, it was, pretty much, the perfect pork chop.

Despite my earlier excesses, we did save just a sliver of room for desert, and got the dark chocolate pot de creme. Nicely done, with just enough orange zest to give it some zing, this was a really good dessert to finish this meal, cleansing the palate, and serving as a nice counterpoint to the extremely heavy meat flavors.

All-in-all, we loved Au Pied de Cochon, and have decided we’re definitely returning on our next trip to Montreal. There’s a lot to explore still on the menu, foremost the “Duck in a Can”. in which a duck breast, foie gras, and garlic (plus a few other items) are cooked in can. Tableside, the can is opened and dumped over some cheese-crusted bread. We didn’t get it, but it looked good. Kind of fun watching them bring out the cans, too. We’ll try this next time.

We’ll also starve ourselves for an entire day first. I’m still amazed that neither of us gained weight on this trip (thanks mostly to almost 16 miles of walking around in 10 degree air over the weekend).

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