Monday, June 24, 2013

Au Pied De Cochon

Its 7:57pm and my last night in Montreal when my phone rings. A slight feeling of trepidation washing over my head, I answer it. “Hello, is this Mr. Bennett?” “Yes, it is.” I close my eyes in disappointment to hear the bad news, to listen to the entire reason of my trip ruined by a few words. “Mr. Bennett, great news, we finally got you a reservation at Au Pied De Cochon for 930pm. Enjoy yourself.” I thank the man for his persistence and starve myself for the next hour and half – this meal with surely need an empty stomach.

Au Pied De Cochon. Chef Martin Picard’s work of love in the beautiful and vibrant city of Montreal, Quebec. Anyone familiar with any of Anthony Bourdain's shows knows exactly who Chef Picard is. The crazy and charismatic francophone with a large appetite and messy, tangled hair - no way to mistake him for someone else after you have seen him. PDC is just off downtown Montreal, slightly hidden on a nice little street with no real in-our-face sign of entrance. Probably for the best, as this place is incredibly busy as it is. And why wouldn't it be? Take one look at the extensive menu and you mouth will begin watering while your fingers unconsciously begin dialling for a reservation.

One thing I like about PDC's menu is under each item there is no description or details of the dish. This immediately indicates the calibre of preparation, ingredients, flavours and style that Chef Picard has worked on since first opening. If you're one of those hippie vegetarians or someone who interrogates the menu for what ingredients the chef is using, do yourself a favour and do not visit here. If you do, with no doubt in my mind, you will be greeted with cold, discriminating eyes from your server.

When I ordered the fois gras hamburger our waiter smiled, placed his hand over his heart and closed his eyes, nodding he heard my order. I wasn't sure if he intended to convey this was his favourite item on the menu or of an impending artery clog I would soon endure. My guess is that it was a little of both. Either way, this comforted me greatly in my decision.

Our meal begins with some Fried Pork Rinds as a starter. They're lightly crunchy, greasy and salted - a pork potato chip really - in the shape of a pigs tail. Possibly an ode to one of Picard's most treasured animals. These are very, very tasty especially if accompanied by a frosty beer.

While crunching on the pork rinds, our appetizer of Marinated Herring arrives at our table, along with some fresh bread. Three cuts of herring with the skin on are served on thinly sliced potatoes, with cuts of onions and assortment of greens. The herring had a strong, sweet marinade. Growing up on the East Coast with both my parents hailing from small, fishing-oriented villages my sister and I were both impressed with the freshness and quality of the herring. The sauce was simply something neither of us ever had either, usually fish being simply fried or barbecued. Very impressed.

Taking a look around the restaurant while our main course was being prepared, I wasn't able to spot Picard. I was hoping to even get a second's glance at the celebrity Chef after seeing him numerous times on Bourdain's show. Instead I took notice of how small the restaurant was and how very busy it was too, even at this time of night (around 1030pm). Caught a lot of people snapping photos of their food, I guess as equally excited as I was to be at PDC. Oh look, are mains are here!

The burger is cooked medium-rare which is perfect to keep in the juices, making the burger tender, juicy and not heavy on the stomach. The fois gras is extremely fresh, creamy, buttery, actually melting like butter in your mouth. The richness of the fois gras and smoky thin sauce complement the burger well. I'm a little sad to say I couldn't finish it, especially after all the appetizers. It is a very large portion in itself, but I did manage to get most of it down. I recommend trying this at least once in your lifetime and do it at PDC.

I'm stuffed. Like really stuffed. So when the dessert the menu arrived, there was no way I could cram in even more (and there's always room for dessert, right?). I elect to take some with me, choosing a bag of maple syrup cotton candy - another love piece of Picard's newest venture, Sugar Shack. When you pop a piece of fluffy sugar in your mouth, it initially tastes like a burnt marshmallow quickly switching to that familiar maple syrup flavour.My sister really enjoyed it – I always thought I had the bigger sweet tooth.

I can now officially cross PDC off my bucket list of restaurants but I wont be doing that. Because I know that even as happy as I was I got to visit before I left Montreal, I will no doubt in my mind be going back. And I'm already excited about it; I cant’ wait to hear what new specialities Picard will be slicing up. I hope even one day to meet the man himself, share a drink with the wacky chef.

Final words? I didn't have a heart attack and it was one of the best meals of my life. If what I have written above doesn't convince you, go eat a Big Mac!


Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

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