When one talks of Montreal culinary institutions, one quickly arrives at Au Pied de Cochon, chef Martin Picard’s ode to all things rich and decadent. From his roughly 80 seat space on Duluth Street East, he has built up a following which had allowed him to develop a culinary empire from his Cabane à Sucre and subsequent Tele-Quebec series to his now award-winning cookbook. His restaurant has, thanks to satisfied customers, food critics, fellow chefs and even some famous friends (Anthony Bourdain has sung his praises on many a TV show), become a don’t miss experience for food enthusiasts worldwide who visit Montreal. Despite all of this and even being a local resident, I had never the chance to eat there. Following my experience at the Cabane à Sucre a month ago, I knew that I needed to rectify that. And that happened this past Saturday.
The first thing you realize when you walk in is just how compact the restaurant actually is. Typical of the Plateau neighborhood, the space is deeper than wide and they use all the space they have to its maximal capacity. Even the wine cellar is a cramped side room with bottles stacked on both sides. The space is clean with wood used as the only real accents in the dining room. The kitchen and bar take up one side and allow for diners to see the magic happen if they wish.
Our 5 person party decided to take a “tapas” approach to the evening to allow us to enjoy as much of the food as possible. One of us had already been previously a couple of times so he helped guide our selections for the evening. For starters, we got the Cromesquis de Foie Gras. What a start to our meal. Bite-sized fried balls of foie gras which simply explode in your mouth when you bit into them. Little bundles of gluttony. These were so good that we ordered a second serving of these at the end of our meal as dessert.
Next up, Accras de morue with a spicy mayonnaise dipping sauce. Pretty much the best morue croquettes I’ve ever had. Beautiful crispy crust and loads of delicious morue inside, these were perfect as a starter.
Duck Carpaccio. After the 2 fried items, this was a wonderfully light and fresh dish. A little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some onions and a egg plus some beautiful quality duck meat. Great simple dish that I would eat again and again.
Chicken wings with a maple syrup BBQ sauce. The wings themselves were good but the clear star here is that sauce. Deep in flavor with the right balance of sweet and spicy, this sauce would perfectly coat the back of your spoon when you went in to scope up the leftover sauce once the wings were gone. That plate didn’t have a spot of sauce left on it when it was removed from the table.
Homemade gnocchi with ricotta and pulled pork. Just a heck of a dish. Soft and rich gnocchi with the addition of some dynamite pulled pork. The ricotta added a nice creaminess as well to the dish.
And after all of that, we were only done with the appetizers! Next up were the main courses. First up, the restaurant’s version of a Montecristo sandwich. Stacks of fatty pork shoulder with melted cheese between two pieces of bread that were fried in what I suspect was duck fat but I forgot to ask. Either way, this was a cardiologist’s worse nightmare. For the rest of us, it was shear heaven. Every ingredient on its own was amazing but put together….. Sweet sweet music.
Plotté of pork shoulder, loin and hearts. Delicious rich broth to soak bread into. Great pieces of pork to enjoy. A very old school and hearty dish to enjoy. Likely the perfect course for a cold evening.
Foie gras poutine. The classic dish of Au Pied de Cochon. Boy did it not disappoint. The plate lasted all of 5 minutes between the five of us. The first you notice is the color and thickness of the gravy. This is no ordinary gravy – anything with foie gras in it could never be characterized as ordinary. The foie gras sauce adds a whole other level of richness to an already rich and heavy dish in poutine. Officially now my favorite poutine ever. And that is saying a lot given my love for Chuck Hughes’ lobster poutine.
A Parmentier. Think shepherd’s pie without the corn but of course, there is more to it than that with Au Pied de Cochon. Pulled pork base covered with their version of mashed potatoes – potatoes, cream, butter, cheddar and foie gras incorporated in. The whole thing baked off. The potatoes are to die for… And just may I have destroyed any further mashed potatoes I have at any other restaurant from here on out.
And finally, the tarte de boudin avec foie gras au sel. Flaky pastry crust with potatoes, caramelized onions, boudin and foie gras. Perfect blend of textures and flavors. Flaky and soft. Salty and sweet. Very nice way to cap off the main courses.
This meal was everything I had expected and more. You know you’ve had an epic meal when your server comes up partway through the meal, sees the lack of leftovers and goes “You guys are crazy”. It was that kind of night and given my experience at the Cabane à Sucre PDC, I wouldn’t have expected anything else. I officially have a new entry in my top 3 Montreal restaurants. And it was a long time coming.
Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth Est.
514 281 1114