Au Pied de Cochon
It was cold and quiet on this Saturday January evening and we missed Au Pied de Cochon at first. Paying more attention the second time, we ended up in front of a non-marked building with a large window, lively crowd inside and artwork with a pig. That was our only hint.
No signage was surprising, but we quickly got past that. We were welcomed by the hostess in a white uniform, as if she was the butcher running the show here. Walking through a narrow, long corridor, we maneuvered to our table next to baguette cutter desk. It was so narrow that we questioned it's fire-code safety. Who knows, maybe it's all good with Montreal code.
We tempered our expectations, as far as branding goes, by what we saw outside and were happy to notice that things were drastically better indoors. There were tons of interesting details hinting at a place with the freshest meat - quite a few products on display and custom artwork adding an erotic, wild hint to the restaurant. Staff were neatly dressed in black uniforms and an illustrated pig branded round patch. This same illustrative brand appeared on the cuttlery paper holder - stamped on - a raw, simple touch.
We did not get the best seats, in our opinion. Settled on a table in a transitional area; our view that night was more of the waiters lower parts. That's another thing we quickly got over and started studying the menu. We were surprised to find a few Japanese dishes listed. There was an Okonomiyaki and Fois Gras Umami.
We decided to start off with the recommended Charcuterie and Foie Gras Pizza to share. I got a pint of their home-made Au Pied de Cochon light ale, while Mon Cheri took St Ambrose Stout. Their brew was simple and light, nothing overly memorable, but decently priced and easy-going.
Warm, fresh baguette with a generous amount of butter was served in unique receipe paper. It really got our appetite going.
First, in 15 minutes or so, came our Foie Gras Pizza - right out of the oven. Our waiter came with a small mezzaluna and cut up the pizza swiftly in front of us making for a great presentation. The portion was not too big, but very succulent. We felt an explosion of taste with sweet maple syrup drizzled on top, smoked meats and fresh mozzarella which felt a bit like ricotta instead. To add to all of that, several pieces of Fois Gras were contributing in texture and substance. Overall the dish was a very oily with the culprit being the maple syrup addition.
Throughout the evening, various staff served our table, working as a team, including the manager. Edouard was our main waiter, passionately explaining all the dishes in detail. As a wonderful touch, the manager came by with a Temaki on the house and a full introduction of the dish as he apologized for the delay with our main course. He even got Mon Cheri another Stout. The Japanese fusion dish truly wowed us with all the flavour.
The Stuffed Pied de Cochon and Fg was our main dish. We should mention, our appetite was hardly there by the time this lovely casserole arrived. It was definitely a head-turner. A large pig's leg landed on out table with crumbled batter on the skin, and a cheesy, garlic, cream sauce. Some parsley also added to the palate. We dug in, cutting into the large bulk of meat. Thick skin and a fatty layer under it surprised us. They added a soft, gooey texture which we were not fond of. Definitely an experience for us, however we ended up taking about half of the main course home with us.
A visit to Au Pied de Cochon is a truly remarkable experience. We were treated with a great deal of respect and pleasantly surprised by the friendly youthful staff. They all patiently switched to English for us with and took their time to explain us the dishes as we made our decisions. (our French was really not up to par to understand the nuances). Note that you need to make a reservation ahead of time, definitely not a place to enjoy a spontaneous meal from a walk-in.
PS: although the washroom is a bit hidden, the stall is quite the treat - spacious, with a fancy washlet seat (remote control velcro-ed to the wall) and marble clad walls - adding a luxurious layer to the restaurant.