Duck in a Can, Foie Gras Poutine or Pig's Head: Montreal's Pied de Cochon
by Mariella Castro
Located in the heart of the Plateau, AU PIED DE COCHON
opened its doors a decade ago in 2001. Created and run by revolutionary, and
award winning chef Martin Picard, this restaurant is known as a must go
location when visiting and living in Montreal. Many of its patrons go even
further and claim that this spot is the stuff dreams are made off: a sublime
menu, where heaven descends in the form of food. Others believe it's a
self-indulgent temple for fatty, heavy duck/porky dishes. So, how do we
categorize this gem? Do we join the people that celebrate this restaurant as a
treasure or do we decide that this place is only for the unhealthy and careless
Duck in a can, Foie Gras Poutine or Pig's Head for 2... Are you salivating already and secretly wanting to go there tonight? Don't get too excited, Au Pied de Cochon is only accessible with reservations. Yes, it is at full capacity almost every night and showing up with no previous call is going to be a failed attempt to enjoy this out of the ordinary cuisine. After more than a decade of success, the appeal doesn't seem to be slowing down. There are more than 24 options you can choose from at Au Pied de Cochon carefully separated in categories such as: Foie Grais, Poultry, Cochon, Beef and lamb. No matter, which plate you chose, the satisfaction levels are astounding: consistently above all possible expectations.
People come from all over Canada and North Eastern US to experience this rustic cuisine. Au pied de Cochon, not only excels in the richness of its food, but in its ambiance and service. Personally, both times that I have dined there, I was scheduled for 10pm, but I never thought on changing my dining destination. To be honest, I was relieved since the later it was, the more space I had in my stomach!
Last time I dined their was with three foodie-lover friends and we ordered five dishes. The glamorous duck in a can, which the waiter opens in front of you; I cannot describe the softness of this piece of meat. The Fois Gras was presented in a way in which you put aside "upper echelon" posh connotation of it. I can't even describe the taste... speechless. The poutine.... Oh the poutine. Now, I have to acknowledge that men and women in our beautiful Montreal are crazy about this dish, but in Au Pied Cochon? Out of this planet, just delicious. Classiness and innovation was equivalent to a delicacy. We also ordered a Pig's Head for Two, for which you have to call in advance to reserve one, since they only do two per day. Finally we ordered the lamb shank that was cooked to perfection. Five dishes, five successes, three happy women, not an easy task!
Now, let's discuss the big elephant in the room, the elephant that hides behind
the deliciousness of it all: the health issue which devolves into the high
caloric nature of these creations. Picard shared his thoughts about people who
went to restaurants and ordered salads in an interview with Kim Honey. He
believed people should prepare a salad at home instead of going to restaurant
to order one, "Usually when you go to a restaurant, you go there because you
want to please yourself". Some critics believe that Picard has a cooking
problem since the high quantity of fat he uses to cook is out of the ordinary.
His dishes contain 200% more salt than that of a person's daily doses. Calories
are over the roof; this restaurant is not for the faint-heartened, the least
adventurous or the vegetarians. There is no dish that would satisfy them. As for the location, people are bothered by its hidden nature, the loudness of the
restaurant and the overpriced dishes. Isn't the concept supposed to be the old
Québec rustic canteen and give people a taste of creative food in a different
concept but maintaining the affordable prices? There have been cases of a
poutine with only 25 fries and priced at 25$, not a pleasant experience to pay
a dollar per fries. However, the main issue is the big sizes of the main
dishes. These plates are usually okay if you are a miner at the end of a 12-hour shift
or if you have been deprived of food for more than 12 hours, but they are most
certainly not for the common folk.
I must accept my first experience was a mixed one. While I was there, I enjoyed the food and said I would go back for sure, which I did; but when I got home at 11.30pm, I was certain I was close to death. I couldn't move, I was sweating, and my stomach was on the verge of disintegration. Let's just say the end of the night was not pleasant. Some people would be okay with that, others not so much.
So this is the concept; a place where all dishes taste amazing because of the salt, the fat, the rich meats and the condiments used. Now the question is, should we consider it a must go experience? Should we support places like this that go against our health? Personally, I would say definitely. Is it unhealthy? For sure! But in contempory society, I do believe people can be healthy and have a guilty pleasure from time to time. There are always people that will argue against the validity of this argument and the validity of this restaurants success, but Au Pied de Cochon has not only survived for a decade with this concept but has excelled at it. People come all the way to Montreal for this place, for this rustic cuisine by the fatty poet chef. Let's just make it clear for future visitors that if you are not ready to take a heavy dish, maybe overpriced or hyped place then this pearl is not for you. Continue your search on your type of restaurants but for the braves out there, be sure to make your reservation, clear your stomach and have an open mind to be blown away by dishes you never thought possible. Enjoy the greatness!
536, rue Duluth Est
Montréal, QC H2L 1A9
Hours: Tue-Sun 5 pm
- 12 am
Image source: Flickr