Jet lag is an awful thing to get over. Sometimes when I think I've got it beat then I go to sleep and wake up with a a start at 3am. Or I'll start nodding off in the middle of dinner between courses. I should explain that it is in the mid 30's celsius temperature wise here in Montreal at the moment which doesn't help. Not that I'm complaining, I did wish for this weather after all. One thing that is guaranteed to wake me up however is food. And when it's a restaurant with the most extensive foie gras menu in Canada I'm most certainly jolted awake. Au Pied de Cochon means "foot of a pig". It featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations where he ate a 16 course foie gras meal. Chef Martin Picard told his chefs to randomly pick items from the extensive foie gras menu and send them out to Bourdain "and when he dies, stop".
Au Pied de Cochon is one of those places that is so well known and popular that there is no sign outside. You always need to book ahead of time, even on a quiet night like a Tuesday. As it's Summertime the front of the restaurant is filled with a bounty of fresh local seafood much of which we don't get in Australia. These are a Summer item only and come Winter the front display would be filled with foie gras. Ah foie gras that indulgent, controversial treat. Au Pied de Cochon extensive foie gras menu includes foie gras poutine, foie gras hamburger, cured foie gras and boudin tart among the ten foie gras items. This is not the place to take vegetarians as it also features roast piglet (aww, they are very cute I have to admit), pig's head for two, "Happy" pork chop and well as a slew of other pork dishes as well as boudins (sausages).
Duck in the can is served!
There is also "Duck in a Can" which is thankfully nothing like the scary chicken in a can. Instead it's a stew with duck that is made here as they have their own cannery. I want to order it but Mr NQN puts his paw down and says no. It's hot and he doesn't feel like rich food. Fair enough. Diners can buy the cans for $36 each and they need to be used within two days. A lot of the items are rather plainly described so they do require some enquiries from the friendly and knowledgeable staff who are all young and good looking (well one does tend to notice these things!).
The ingredients in Duck in a Can
A diner owner chair
Au Pied de Cochon is owned by Martin Picard who is known as "The Wild Chef" and he has his own television show of the same title. On this show he tracks food from when it is caught until when it is cooked and he also employs the nose to tail philosophy. The restaurant itself started on somewhat of a shoestring. Money was tight and to help buy vital pieces of furniture, diners were able to buy their own tables and chairs. The artwork in the restaurant is all done by his staff including an interesting number where his face has devil's horns drawn above and a love heart underneath it.
_Artwork featuring the chef Martin Picard done by staff members
Foie Gras Poutine $23
You knew we were going to order this right? ;) The gravy is a duck fat gravy (everything here is cooked in duck fat) and simmered over three days. The fries are also cooked in duck fat and there is a generous slab of foie gras on top as well as cheese curds. The sublime quality of the duck gravy and the foie gras makes this an incredible dish. It's rich of course and best shared between 2 or 3 people as we did.
Crispy PDC salad $8.50
I know, I just had to have some salad. Tanya from Tourisme Montréal explains that Martin Picard doesn't want "salad munchers" here and even his salad has a big square of deep fried pork cartilage cake. The pork cartilage is soft and jellied in texture and very mild in flavour (it tastes most like tête de veau). It is housed inside a thin crunchy dark golden crumbed exterior.
Tarragon Bison Tongue $6
Again I cannot believe how reasonable the prices are here especially given that this is said to be one of the most renowned restaurants in Montreal. The Bison tongue is absolutely gorgeous, soft and perfectly cooked with a slight gelatinousness to the sauce. It's served with a tarragon rich Bearnaise sauce and diced vegetables.
PDC's melting Pot $20.50
The Melting Pot is a cast iron pot filled with a delectable mix of meats on a bed of creamy mash made even creamier by the addition of those omnipresent cheese curds which gives it an almost mozzarella like stretch. In it there is an absolutely perfect boudin noir (black or blood sausage), a pork sausage, a simmered whole eschallot, mushroom and a large square of meltingly soft pork belly. It's so rich though and we feel terrible that we can barely make a dent into it given the extreme heat outside. This is a cold weather dish most certainly and I know we will dream of this when we return to Australia's Winter in a few weeks.
PDC seafood platter $49
This seafood platter was enormous and full of items that I had never tried before and a minimum of fried items. There are whelks with garlic aioli, conch with guacamole, clams, three types of oysters (one with a jelly, one with melon balls and one to eat plain or with an onion and red wine vinegar), calamari with spicy yogurt, small fried fish called Caplan, mussels with a tomato sauce and prawns. I start with the whelks which have a soft chewiness with an even texture and are wonderful with the garlicky aioli (there are six of the huge blighters too!).
The conch with guacamole is soft and tender and cut into small pieces with the smooth guacamole as the perfect foil. The calamari is well cooked and not chewy at all with a spicy yogurt that packed a punch. The prawns are small and sweet and the mussels are plentiful as they stuff three or four mussels within each mussel shell. The only thing I don't go for are the clams.
Squab with green and yellow beans
We watch another diner receive her Duck in a Can and it causes a flutter at nearby tables when it was brought out. Her dining companion gets the pig's head for two and it's enough for four people (not surprisingly he gets a doggy bag). Sadly, and rather obviously given the portion sizes, there is no room for dessert. And the bar chair you may ask (as we did) was a gift from their venison supplier!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried food cooked in duck fat and what do you think of it?
NQN travelled and explored Canada as a guest of Tourism Canada
Au Pied De Cochon
536 ave Duluth est, Montréal, QC H2L 1A9, Canada
Tel: +1 (514) 281-1114