Saturday, November 19, 2011

Au Pied du Cochon

You have arrived.
This is at least top three in my favorite restaurants of all time. I will not come to Montreal without booking a dinner at APDC. It's unapologetically, kill you with cholesterol, so suffer the little birdies, I'm going out with a bang, haunt your memories AMAZING. I love this restaurant, and once per year, if I'm fortunate, we can go there, and feast with things that are unforgettable and LMFAO good. 
Again, located somewhat away from the typical tourist attractions of downtown, you wouldn't suspect one of the most iconic restaurants of Montreal to be located on the street where it is actually found. There isn't even really a sign. All you'll see is a sort of narrow looking restaurant, with a long bar, and maybe 25ish tables. Everything is constructed with blond wood with a few odd decorations, including a stuffed goose which hangs from the ceiling. 
House Lager and Pinot
On this occasion we were seated near the restaurant's front window. The bigger half went for the house APDC lager, which is brewed specially for the restaurant. It was a basic lager, clean and crisp, and successfully washed down all the stick to your ribs, coat your mouth offerings of the restaurant. I chose a glass of Pinot Noir from Alsace, though I must apologize since I can't remember exactly what it was called. Wine pours are generous here, so if your party can't decide on a certain wine, or between beer and wine, I'd say go ahead and order by the glass. 
Now onto the menu. 
Foie Gras Cromesquis
When coming to APDC, you are morally obligated to start out with the foie gras cromesquis. Imagine a little battered, crispy cube placed before you. The server instructs you to eat in one bite, after allowing the cube to cool a minute. The single cube goes into your mouth, you bite down, and the richest, warmest liquid foie gras explodes to fill every crevice of your palate. Warm, unctuous, rich, and ridiculously luxurious, This is a preparation that isn't normally found with foie where the acceptable culinary sentiment is generally less is more. Regardless of what you order at this restaurant, you must start out with these. More is more. Yes, more is more.
For appetizers, the sky is really the limit. Many people stand behind the codfish fritters which arrive in a little paper cone. On other occasions, I've enjoyed their guinea hen liver mousse, which arrives in a little glass jar, sealed with a layer of hardened fat, and toasted crostini on the side. But today, the bigger half and I wanted to try something different.
Duck Carpaccio
He went ahead and ordered the duck carpaccio. It arrived with a thin, pounded, sliced layer of raw duck meat, topped with scattered thin slices of mushroom, shaved Parmesan, parsley, and dabs of mustard and spicy mayonaise, and a beautiful golden egg yolk. He was instructed to break the yolk, and then spread the mix of all the items over the duck meat. Every slice of meat was wonderful. The sauce created by the yolk, mustard, and mayo was delicious. The other nice thing about this dish was that while it was texturally interesting, it also was somewhat on the lighter side of offerings for this restaurant. Salty cheese, tender, delicate duck meat, and the richness of the egg yolk, as well as the bite of the herbs. This was a delicious appetizer.
Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée
I went slightly more classic and heavy with my choice in dish. As previously mentioned, I've an unhealthy obsession with french onion soup, and allegedly, APDC does a version that is the end all be all of french onion soups. For the second time in a couple days, my bigger half said that on the initial taste, the corners of my mouth curled upwards, and my eyes grew wide with delight upon the first bite of this revelation of a soup. We all know the classic soup: cheese, crouton, stock, cooked down onions. This was all of the above, but perhaps the richest, best of all ingredients that one could possibly use for the soup. I assume that the cheese was a Canadian Gruyere style cheese, as well as actual Gruyere. It was melted, and had that perfect sour funk that you would expect from the proper type of cheese topping a french onion soup. They didn't cheap out on the crouton, as several properly crisp pieces of crusty bread lay under the perfect blanket of melted cheese. But now for the shocker: the APDC soup uses a pork soup base, complete with large chunks of pork meat and pork fat. It was easily the richest soup that I've ever tasted, saturating every last bit of cooked down sweet onion. This is another must order for when you come up to Martin Picard's restaurant. 
Onto entrees. If it's your first time here, you really should order either the foie gras two ways (hamburger w/ foie plus an order of the poutine) or the duck in a can. These two dishes are so good, that it's not fair. You're also going to have to monitor your cholesterol for a few days after you eat them, but it's totally worth it. On this occasion, we actually were all too tempted by the specials, however. 
Venison Kidneys
The bigger half went for a special featuring roasted venison kidneys over spaetzle with a rich red wine/mustard sauce. It arrived in a little cast iron pan, a perfect serving of about five or six little venison kidneys, sliced so that each received a nice textural sear, and then finished roasting to incorporate all of the sauce reduction. It was mustardy, gamy, earthy, and above all, so savory and rich. I recommend this dish, if they have it on the menu to you, especially if you are a fan of all game meats and offal. 
Another special that they had on the menu that night was a pot au feu. I thought, how wonderful! The dish is most known for containing a bunch of "peasant vegetables" including cabbage, carrots, and onions. This being the type of restaurant it is, they also said that the meats included duck, foie gras, quail, bone marrow, and chicken. So I went ahead and ordered the slow cooked pot of all things delicious. After we'd finished our appetizers, and ordered another round of drinks, a little plate of salt and mustard and a tiny metal bowl of "green salsa", which looked like it was a mix of vinegar, oil, parsley and other herbs arrived on our table. "How sweet," I thought.
Pot au Feu
The next moment, I looked up and saw a man walking toward me, no, striding toward me with not a little pot of feu, or a plate of vegetables or meats, but what might as well have been a full sized dutch oven of meat and vegetables. God damn. It was big. A whole pot full of a huge slice of duck breast, a chicken thigh, a whole quail, a slice of foie gras, and a marrow bone staring at me with a little spoon sticking out of the gaping hole. Then there were the vegetables, including a quarter of a whole cabbage, two carrots, turnips, and onions. The broth produced at the bottom from simmering for hours was so rich, like the best stock you've ever had. Shmearing bits of mustard or salsa, or a sprinkling of salt over each little element, every bite was delicious. Was it a lot? You bet. Perhaps too much of a good thing, but there really was nothing quite like the gasp of excitement and intimidation that exited ones lungs as the pot au feu first arrived at the table.
Dark Chocolate
Pot de Creme
For dessert, having battled with an entire dutch oven of meat and vegetables, we decided to split a single order of the dark chocolate pot de creme. Despite being a little concerned about the size of the actual "pot," recall that I had just been overwhelmed by my choice of entree also including the word "pot," the pot de creme arrived at the table in a little glass jar, topped with a layer of creme, and a sort of maple sugar crumble. The dark chocolate mousse acting as star of the dessert was wonderful, one of those things that the husband does not leave behind. I thought he was going to go feline with the glass jar for a few minutes. It actually may have been worthy of licking the cup now that I think of it. Another fantastic dessert.
Overall, I'd say that the items we chose at APDC were all worth ordering. When I go back next time, I will order the cromesquis, the onion soup, and then probably go for either the duo of foie gras or the duck in a can and will leave the pot au feu to competitive eaters. But once again, an excellent meal, and a not to be missed destination of Montreal.

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth Est
Montréal (Québec)
H2L 1A9

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