A pigs head emerges from the brick oven. (Photo source: NY Times)
“Imagine what kind of food you would eat if you lived in Quebec in the winter with no heating, no refrigeration and no imported food. Pure fat, and then some.” This was how Emily and Paul prepared us for the famed Quebecois food at Au Pied Du Cochon, which literally translates to “the foot of the pig.” The mastermind chefs in the kitchen specialize in every part of the big, from the head cheese to the tongue, and more. In fact, Au Pied Du Cochon specializes in every part of every animal that prances around Quebecan territory.
It is nearly impossible to get a reservation at this place, but miraculously, Emily’s bombardment of calls and emails landed us an 11:30 p.m. spot on Friday night. Apparently, it’s best to go late when the servers aren’t hustling eaters in and out. To stay awake and excited for such a European-hour supper, we played card games in our airbnb.com apartment, while sipping on Canadian Maple Whiskey (which is to die for).
The interior is surprisingly simple. It’s bustling and cozy, but no white table clothes or decadent decor to speak of: the food is decadent enough. Au Pied Du Cochon is a bare-wood-table-and-paper-napkin-ring type of place. The service is incredible and honest. Our server helped us through the menu, making sure we weren’t ambushing our bodies with too many rich dishes; in some cases, a bite of a dish would be plenty. We ordered a smattering and shared. Here is how it went down, with gusto.
Au Pied Du Cochon’s house ale is light, frothy and a perfect match for each meal. A crusty, warm loaf of bread arrives at the table in a brown paper bag, with ample butter.
The Foi Gras Poutine was described by Bobby as the “most intense french fry dish on the planet, and arguably one of the best things I’ve tried in Montreal so far.” It. Was. INSANELY DELICIOUS and totally naughty. Foi Gras + French Fries + Poutine Gravy? Come on!
Ah, the Duck Carpaccio. So incredibly light and fresh, with a creamy finish from the raw egg and herbed olive oil. I thought it could use a touch more of salt to make the flavors pop.
Marinated Herring, over scalloped potatoes with creme fraiche and dill. This was one of my favorite dishes. The fish was thick and juicy, the way herring should be, with a sour pickled flavor that was tempered by the creme fraiche.
Crackling, or as Nolan called it: “the devil’s popcorn.” Tarragon Bison Tongue, braised for 6 hours. Unbelievable. The tongue melted in our mouths with such sweet grace. I drank the broth directly from the bowl, shamelessly. Fries in Duck Fat with aioli – good enough but really just an extra lining for the stomach.
The Melting Pot! Blood sausage, smoked sausage, duck breast (we think) and pork belly with a few bulbous and sweet roasted whole onions over a butter-infused mashed potatoes. Glory be!
The winner: Duck in a Can. Or, as Paul says “heart attack in a can.” But we all agreed that we could skip pondering the calorie points – this dish wins 10 million happiness points! 100 grams of foie gras and several other opulent ingredients are sealed in a can with duck breast, dropped into boiling water for 28 minutes, and poured generously over a plate of creme fraiche and toast. This dish is alluring and sinful.
A beautiful Lemon Merengue Tart, which was totally unnecessary but glorious.